Thursday, December 05, 2013

WWE 2006-2015 PPV Numbers (and a lengthy discourse of PPV buy counting)

WWE 2006-2015 PPV Numbers
Analysis by Chris Harrington (@mookieghana on twitter)

Introduction
When you're pulling together Wrestling Statistics, your worst enemy is the sourceless "fact". 
It appears on the internet (or that archived Usenet post) and makes a bold claim without rhyme or reason. Who was under that mask? How many buys did that PPV do? How much did that territory sell for? What's the best strategy for mapping the icosahedron when I'm hunting a Wumpus? It can be maddening.

So, when possible, I do try to cite my sources.
In this case, I decided to go with number of Worldwide and North American Pay-Per-View Buy numbers as published by Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter.  All of these issues are online, so if you have a subscription, I do encourage you to check my transcription skills.

There's other places you can find PPV buy numbers. I highly recommend Jason Campbell's Regularly Updated Spreadsheet at Pro Wrestling History (it's usually populated with information noted in Dave's newsletter). If you're more interested in a direct source, the WWE offers a nice chart each month as part of their Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on their Corporate Website.  And since WWE became a publicly traded company on the NYSE on October 19, 1999, WWE has publishes their Quarterly Reports (8-K) and Annual Reports (10-K) with the SEC.

In the beginning, WWF was quite opaque about the specific number of buys for most PPV events. (Wrestlemania was the one exception since it was an industry gem and chance to brag.)  A quarterly report might cryptically note, "We exceeded the number of buys for each event that occurred in the same period as last year except one." However, over time, responding to complaints from Investors and Analysts, WWE began clearly reporting worldwide numbers for each PPV held in that quarter.

WWE always has two majors caveats whenever they're discussing PPVs:
1) "This initial estimate is based on preliminary buy information received from our pay-per-view distributors."
2) "Final reconciliation of the pay-per-view buys generally occurs within one year and any subsequent adjustments to the buys are recognized in the period new information is received."

Essentially, the number of buys reported for a PPV isn't necessary that final number of buys for a PPV. It can be a maddening process, and one that causes a lot of confusion.  Additionally, not all of the information is reported in a single place at the same time.  Domestic/Worldwide PPV splits used to appear in the quarterly and annual reports.  Now, they're usually only available through the unaudited monthly KPIs releases (which, in turn, are not handily archived and accessible in the same fashion as all of the SEC filings). Another good pair of resources are the Trending Schedules available on the Corporate Website and the 10-Q SEC Filings.

Each quarter WWE reports their latest estimate for PPV buys for that quarter along with the "Prior Period Buys" which essentially are the adjusting the PPVs that occurred outside of the current period. Usually, the assumption is that most of these "Prior Period Buys" are connected to the previous period's PPVs (try saying that three times fast!) though in some cases - Wrestlemania, for instance - we can see adjustments to the final number many months later.  Those adjustments can be both positive or negative.

Sometimes those adjustments are applied to the chart that is part of the monthly KPIs. Sometimes WWE will specifically quote figures around PPVs - particularly Wrestlemania buys, in a press release. Or sometimes as part of news articles  (in periodicals such as Advertising Age, SportsBusinss Journal, Forbes, Fortune, Hollywood Variety) they'll quote specific buy numbers.  When Linda McMahon was running for Congress, the WWE was especially open with offering PPV buy numbers when journalists inquired.  However, in the end, it can be quite piecemeal.

Your initial PPV buy estimates are typically pretty good, but they are cases where certain PPVs have enormous swings. As WWE notes, their "initial estimate" is based on "preliminary buy information".
When the business of purchasing a PPV was a lot more complicated and reconciliation between Cable Franchises and PPV Distributors was more cumbersome, it was understandable why there was such a large delay for WWF to available how successful their PPV was.  Many of the best indications appeared in the industry press (Broadcasting & Cable or Multichannel News) where large regional cable franchisees would report the buyrate for their system for a major wrestling PPV.  When WWF wasn't a public company, these Cable Franchise reports quoted in industry periodicals would often serve as the best source of information - particularly in the early 1990s.

This brings up the important distinction between buys and buyrates.  For decades, Cable (and Satellite) were growing businesses that expanded the overall number of PPV-capable homes year after year. Franchises would report the percentage of their capable homes which purchased an event (the buyrate). The number of buys was "eligible subscribers x buyrate".  Since the "universe" was growing year after year, the focus was on the buyrate - not just the pure number of buys.  However, as the "universe" hit a plateau and even began decreasing (Netflix/cord cutter generation + great recession cutbacks + escalating cable prices), along with the mid-2000s age of digital cable systems (which greatly reduced cable "black box" piracy), the accounting has moved over purely to buys.

(If you're curious about specific number of PPV-capable homes by year, I suggest you look at "Stay Tuned: A History of American Broadcasting".  After an exhaustive search, I came across a useful table on page 871 Appendix C which has exactly that.)

In this modern age, it does not make as much sense to talk about buyrates - only buys. The Cable/Satellite PPV eligible Universe is pretty stable. And there are alternative methods of distribution (which are growing) such as through Next-Gen Video Game Consoles (PS3 and XBOX-360 machines), Web Streaming (through WWE.com and through WWE's App).

So, what's the best way to track all of this information which is being published in pieces at various times throughout the entire year and covering often disparate time-frames and events?  A weekly newsletter isn't a bad start.  So, that's why I'm using Dave Meltzer's number - particularly for 2006-2013 period.  I've also double-checked these against SEC Filings and KPI releases and generally, they're the same numbers.  If anything the differences come down to how you apply a domestic/worldwide PPV split and how you attribute prior period buys.







EVENTDATEPRICEWorldwide
 Buys
NA
Buys
Source
New Year's Revolution 2006
1/8/2006
34.95
345
214
4/6/09 WO
Royal Rumble 2006
1/29/2006
34.95
585
357
4/6/09 WO
No Way Out 2006
2/19/2006
34.95
218
133
4/6/09 WO
WrestleMania 22
4/2/2006
49.95
975
636
4/6/09 WO
Backlash 2006
4/30/2006
34.95
230
143
4/6/09 WO
Judgment Day 2006
5/21/2006
34.95
252
154
4/6/09 WO
One Night Stand 2006
6/11/2006
39.95
304
185
4/6/09 WO
Vengeance 2006
6/25/2006
39.95
429
270
4/6/09 WO
Great American Bash 2006
7/23/2006
39.95
232
141
4/6/09 WO
SummerSlam 2006
8/20/2006
39.95
541
330
4/6/09 WO
Unforgiven 2006
9/17/2006
39.95
307
187
4/6/09 WO
No Mercy 2006
10/8/2006
39.95
197
114
4/6/09 WO
Cyber Sunday 2006
11/5/2006
39.95
228
139
4/6/09 WO
Survivor Series 2006
11/26/2006
39.95
383
234
4/6/09 WO
December to Dismember
12/3/2006
39.95
90
52
4/6/09 WO
Armageddon 2006
12/17/2006
39.95
239
139
4/6/09 WO
New Year's Revolution 2007
1/7/2007
39.95
225
149
4/6/09 WO
Royal Rumble 2007
1/28/2007
39.95
525
347
4/6/09 WO
No Way Out 2007
2/18/2007
39.95
205
135
4/6/09 WO
WrestleMania 23
4/1/2007
54.95
1250
825
4/6/09 WO
Backlash 2007
4/29/2007
39.95
210
139
4/6/09 WO
Judgment Day 2007
5/20/2007
39.95
240
158
4/6/09 WO
One Night Stand 2007
6/3/2007
39.95
188
124
4/6/09 WO
Vengeance 2007
6/24/2007
39.95
255
168
4/6/09 WO
Great American Bash 2007
7/22/2007
39.95
250
165
4/6/09 WO
SummerSlam 2007
8/26/2007
39.95
545
360
4/6/09 WO
Unforgiven 2007
9/16/2007
39.95
220
134
4/6/09 WO
No Mercy 2007
10/7/2007
39.95
271
171
4/6/09 WO
Cyber Sunday 2007
10/28/2007
39.95
194
122
4/6/09 WO
Survivor Series 2007
11/18/2007
39.95
341
215
4/6/09 WO
Armageddon 2007
12/16/2007
39.95
237
149
4/6/09 WO
Royal Rumble 2008
1/27/2008
39.95
575
403
2/23/11 WO
No Way Out 2008
2/17/2008
39.95
365
256
2/23/11 WO
WrestleMania XXIV
3/30/2008
49.95
1041
697
2/23/11 WO
Backlash 2008
4/27/2008
39.95
210
141
2/23/11 WO
Judgment Day 2008
5/18/2008
39.95
252
169
2/23/11 WO
One Night Stand 2008
6/1/2008
39.95
200
134
2/23/11 WO
Night of Champions 2008
6/29/2008
39.95
286
191
2/23/11 WO
Great American Bash 2008
7/20/2008
39.95
196
135
2/23/11 WO
SummerSlam 2008
8/17/2008
39.95
477
329
2/23/11 WO
Unforgiven 2008
9/7/2008
39.95
211
146
2/23/11 WO
No Mercy 2008
10/5/2008
39.95
261
157
2/23/11 WO
Cyber Sunday 2008
10/26/2008
39.95
153
92
2/23/11 WO
Survivor Series 2008
11/23/2008
39.95
319
191
2/23/11 WO
Armageddon 2008
12/14/2008
39.95
193
116
2/23/11 WO
Royal Rumble 2009
1/25/2009
39.95
450
288
3/5/12 WO
No Way Out 2009
2/15/2009
39.95
272
174
3/5/12 WO
WrestleMania XXV
4/5/2009
54.95
975
605
3/5/12 WO
Backlash 2009
4/26/2009
39.95
182
116
3/5/12 WO
Judgment Day 2009
5/17/2009
39.95
238
146
3/5/12 WO
Extreme Rules 2009
6/7/2009
39.95
213
136
3/5/12 WO
The Bash 2009
6/28/2009
39.95
178
114
2/23/11 WO
Night of Champions 2009
7/26/2009
39.95
267
166
3/5/12 WO
SummerSlam 2009
8/23/2009
39.95
369
229
3/5/12 WO
Breaking Point 2009
9/13/2009
39.95
169
105
3/5/12 WO
Hell in a Cell 2009
10/4/2009
39.95
283
164
3/5/12 WO
Bragging Rights 2009
10/25/2009
39.95
181
105
3/5/12 WO
Survivor Series 2009
11/22/2009
39.95
235
136
3/5/12 WO
TLC 2009
12/13/2009
39.95
228
132
3/5/12 WO
Royal Rumble 2010
1/31/2010
44.95
465
259
3/19/13 WO
Elimination Chamber 2010
2/21/2010
44.95
287
160
3/19/13 WO
WrestleMania XXVI
3/28/2010
54.95
885
495
3/19/13 WO
Extreme Rules 2010
4/25/2010
44.95
201
112
3/19/13 WO
Over the Limit 2010
5/23/2010
44.95
218
121
3/19/13 WO
Fatal Four Way 2010
6/20/2010
44.95
158
88
3/19/13 WO
Money in the Bank 2010
7/18/2010
44.95
164
98
3/19/13 WO
SummerSlam 2010
8/15/2010
44.95
349
209
3/19/13 WO
Night of Champions 2010
9/19/2010
44.95
165
99
3/19/13 WO
Hell in a Cell 2010
10/3/2010
44.95
210
109
3/19/13 WO
Bragging Rights 2010
10/24/2010
44.95
137
71
3/19/13 WO
Survivor Series 2010
11/21/2010
44.95
244
127
3/19/13 WO
TLC 2010
12/19/2010
44.95
195
101
3/19/13 WO
Royal Rumble 2011
1/30/2011
44.95
476
281
3/3/14 WO
Elimination Chamber 2011
2/20/2011
44.95
212
145
3/3/14 WO
WrestleMania XXVII
4/3/2011
54.95
1124
679
3/3/14 WO
Extreme Rules 2011
5/1/2011
44.95
216
108
3/3/14 WO
Over the Limit 2011
5/22/2011
44.95
145
72
3/3/14 WO
Capitol Punishment 2011
6/19/2011
44.95
176
85
3/3/14 WO
Money in the Bank 2011
7/17/2011
44.95
205
146
3/3/14 WO
SummerSlam 2011
8/14/2011
44.95
311
180
3/3/14 WO
Night of Champions 2011
9/18/2011
44.95
169
109
3/3/14 WO
Hell in a Cell 2011
10/2/2011
44.95
182
98
3/3/14 WO
Vengeance 2011
10/23/2011
44.95
121
65
3/3/14 WO
Survivor Series 2011
11/20/2011
44.95
312
179
3/3/14 WO
TLC 2011
12/18/2011
44.95
179
98
3/3/14 WO
Royal Rumble 2012
1/29/2012
44.95
483
299
8/11/14 WO
Elimination Chamber 2012
2/19/2012
44.95
194
138
8/11/14 WO
WrestleMania XXXVIII
4/1/2012
54.95
1219
715
8/11/14 WO
Extreme Rules 2012
4/29/2012
44.95
271
159
8/11/14 WO
Over the Limit 2012
5/20/2012
44.95
172
124
8/11/14 WO
No Way Out 2012
6/17/2012
44.95
200
110
8/11/14 WO
Money in the Bank 2012
7/15/2012
44.95
206
114
8/11/14 WO
SummerSlam 2012
8/19/2012
44.95
392
296
3/3/14 WO
Night of Champions 2012
9/16/2012
44.95
207
112
3/3/14 WO
Hell in a Cell 2012
10/28/2012
44.95
207
157
3/3/14 WO
Survivor Series 2012
11/18/2012
44.95
216
125
3/3/14 WO
TLC 2012
12/16/2012
44.95
181
75
3/3/14 WO
Royal Rumble 2013
1/27/2013
44.95
579
364
5/11/15 WO
Elimination Chamber 2013
2/17/2013
44.95
241
181
5/11/15 WO
WrestleMania 29
4/7/2013
59.95
1104
662
5/11/15 WO
Extreme Rules 2013
5/19/2013
44.95
245
137
2/23/15 WO
Payback 2013
6/16/2013
44.95
209
108
2/23/15 WO
Money in the Bank 2013
7/14/2013
44.95
223
169
2/23/15 WO
SummerSlam 2013
8/18/2013
44.95
332
207
2/23/15 WO
Night of Champions 2013
9/15/2013
44.95
196
103
2/23/15 WO
Battleground 2013
10/6/2013
44.95
119
84
2/23/15 WO
Hell in a Cell 2013
10/27/2013
44.95
232
135
2/23/15 WO
Survivor Series 2013
11/24/2013
44.95
184
98
2/23/15 WO
TLC 2013
12/15/2013
44.95
189
146
2/23/15 WO
Royal Rumble 2014
1/26/2014
44.95
517
337
5/11/15 WO
Elimination Chamber 2014
2/23/2014
44.95
203
159
5/11/15 WO
Wrestlemania 30
4/6/2014
59.95
684
420
5/11/15 WO
Extreme Rules 2014
5/4/2014
44.95
107
45
2/23/15 WO
Payback 2014
6/1/2014
44.95
66
29
2/23/15 WO
Money in the Bank 2014
6/29/2014
44.95
121
53
2/23/15 WO
Battleground 2014
7/20/2014
44.95
116
36
2/23/15 WO
SummerSlam 2014
8/17/2014
44.95
169
74
2/23/15 WO
Night of Champions 2014
9/21/2014
44.95
56
35
2/23/15 WO
Hell in a Cell 2014
10/26/2014
44.95
83
23
2/23/15 WO
Survivor Series 2014
11/23/2014
44.95
100
32
2/23/15 WO
TLC  2014
12/14/2014
44.95
39
17
2/23/15 WO
Royal Rumble 2015
1/25/2015
44.95
145
50
2/23/15 WO
Fastlane 2015
2/22/2015
44.95
46
26
2/23/15 WO
WrestleMania 31
3/29/2015
59.95
259
103
2/23/15 WO
Extreme Rules 2015
4/26/2015
44.95
56
31  
8/10/15 WO
 Payback 2015
5/17/2015
44.95
54
198/10/15 WO
Elimination Chamber 2015
5/31/2015
44.95
41
 41  
8/10/15 WO
Money in the Bank 2015
6/14/2015
44.95
57
20
8/10/15 WO
Battleground 2015
7/19/2015
44.95
80
   
10/29/15 8-K
SummerSlam 2015
8/23/2015
44.95
121
10/29/15 8-K
Night of Champions 2015
9/20/2015
44.95
77
  
10/29/15 8-K

Lastly, I'd note that the PPVs that are reported closest to the period end (or the month-end for KPIs) are the ones that tend to change the most over time.  Additionally, not every PPV is offered as a "PPV" on international systems. These events usually stick out because the ratio between domestic/worldwide sharply spikes (as you'll see with Battleground 2013 which was shown as a "free" event on SkyTV in the UK.)  Also, in the past there's been disputes with Satellite providers which artificially impacted the number of homes that could order the PPV.

-Chris Harrington
email: chris.harrington@gmail.com
twitter: @mookieghana

3 comments:

Mister_E_Mahn said...

Are the NA numbers included in the worldwide numbers, or are they separate?

Mookie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mookie said...

WM 2013 had 1,104 worldwide buys of which 662 came from North America (and remaininhg 442,000 came from other territories).