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Decline In DVD Sales & Rampant Piracy Force Indie Wrestling To Internet Pay-Per-View

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The move to all-digital distribution is already well under way, and it poses a problem for businesses that have based themselves around the sale of shiny plastic discs. That, combined with the rampant piracy of these discs when they’re released has particularly hurt independent pro-wrestling organizations (to pick something out of thin air). Gabe Sapolsky, vice-president of Dragon Gate USA, owner of Evolve, and former head booker of Ring of Honor, was recently interviewed on Figure Four Daily, a podcast dedicated to pro-wrestling and MMA news, and said that the only way these companies will survive is if a new technology, Internet Pay-Per-View, becomes viable.

A little background. Companies like Dragon Gate USA and Evolve survive almost entirely on DVD sales. If the DVDs don’t sell, then the companies, frankly, run the risk of going out of business. For a little while there, say from 2004 to 2006 or 2007, everything was smooth as you like. But then a few things happened.

One, as broadband speeds increased, it became significantly easier to pirate the DVDs on specialist Web sites, sites usually dedicated to sports, MMA, pro-wrestling, etc. If too many people pirate these shows, then how can the companies survive?

Piracy may not exactly put the likes Taylor Swift or Katy Perry in the poor house, but for smaller organizations, yeah, it hurts.

Illegal streams are another problem that these guys have to deal with. UFC sues people all the time for providing streams, but it’s fair to say UFC has far more resources to litigate this type of thing than Dragon Gate USA or Evolve.

Two, DVD sales just aren’t what they used to be. Remember how massive the DVD section in Best Buy was in the early 2000s? It was like walking into the library at Alexandria. Now? Ha! You’re lucky to find last season of The Office in there.

The decline in sales could be explained a few different ways. You could look at the growth of services like Netflix that instantly stream plenty of stuff to your TV. Google TV hopes to make streaming all the more easy.

There was also a study a few weeks ago that said, because there’s so many entertainment options out there—Netflix, iTunes, Steam, Facebook games, etc.—that people simply spend less time in front of their TV than they used to.

It’s a problem facing the whole entertainment industry, trying to figure out how to get people to pay any sort of attention to what they’re selling.

The next great hope, Sapolsky said in the interview, is Internet Pay-Pew-View, or iPPV. The big iPPV provider right now is GoFightLive.tv, which hosts various combat sport shows. There’s pro-wrestling (in fact, Dragon Gate USA’s first iPPV occurs tonight at 8pm ET), mixed martial arts, boxing, judo, etc. Prices are much cheaper than traditional Pay-Per-View. A UFC event in high-definition costs $55 on DirecTV (I love how UFC charges an additional $10 for the HD feed!), and while GoFightLive.tv isn’t exactly high-definition it’s only $15 for the Dragon Gate USA iPPV. It’s also available all over the world; there’s no territorial restrictions.

You’re free, of course, to hook your computer to your TV if your computer monitor is on the small side.

“Frankly, we need this iPPV money,” said Sapolsky. “This needs to become a money-generator for us. DVD sales, that whole market, is not what it used to be… The economy’s really hurt live ticket sales, so that’s been tough. This live iPPV is the way of the future,” he added.

Sapolsky explained the grander theory behind the Dragon Gate USA iPPV on Paul Heyman‘s Web site, the Heyman Hustle.

So we’re looking at a situation where a relatively new technology, Internet Pay-Per-View, has become vital to the success of an entire industry.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

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