Ring of Honor: CEO Joe Koff Talks iPPV Problems; Ratings for ROH TV

Ring of Honor is without a doubt the number three promotion in the United States today — underneath TNA Wrestling and the distant first-place promotion, WWE — but when you consider the possiblity of expanding and growing to provide competition to even TNA, it’s a lot more complicated than most people thought.

An important aspect of building a wrestling company is delivering the product to as many people as possible. Whether that’s through holding shows across the country, television shows or Pay-Per-View, there are steps that need to be taken in order to avoid a situation where you put too many eggs in a basket.

When you look at TNA, they had a 12-month PPV schedule which they later dropped due to the profitability — or lack thereof — of the shows to do a more managable four show per year schedule. They began putting their live Impact Wrestling events on the road, only to consider going back to taping shows from one place as they have before.

Ring of Honor is still trying to detach itself from depending on their DVD market and up until now, were providing their product across the iPPV format — events held live through online streaming.

That’s proved to be a more difficult task than they had anticipated.

While not every single iPPV that ROH put on has been unwatchable, they have had a string of shows go sour during the live airings that may have hurt the trust between the buying audience and the company itself. And it’s not even the fault of ROH most of the time.

The Wrestling Observer held an interview with the CEO of ROH, Joe Koff, who really made it clear just where Ring of Honor stands on the future of iPPV.

He stated that neither he nor his company know how to properly handle the technology of broadcasting iPPVs which unfortunately showed even as recently as Death Before Dishonor XI which was held last Friday.

“I’m really very much concerned with the experience the end-user gets whether it’s in the ring, on our television station or even when it’s on Pay-Per-View. I want to deliver the best possible experience I can.”

The internet is a finicky beast to tame and Ring of Honor had even at one point tried to broadcast shows through their own website and servers.

“We would take on providing a PPV through our site, through our own people and try to do it our way. We had a few successes but we had as many disappointments to the fans. It was at our last PPV that we were not able to deliver the product as we hoped.”

Koff made it clear that iPPV likely will not be the future of ROH especially due to the negativity it brings to the company every time something goes awry.

“This is just not for me. I don’t understand the technology and there are too may pieces in between. I cannot stand the negative publicity we get and understandably I get it, people were paying the price. They deserve the product. But there were so many haters that were jumping aboard and people who were not even buying the product or even watching the product that I just said I’m going to deliver a Video on Demand product 36-48 hours later that I know is the quality of the show that captures the essence of the show and is deliverable in a format that people could sit and watch it almost as if they were at the show.”

It’s certainly been a disappointing endeavor both on behalf of ROH and the fans watching. However, last week’s Death Before Dishonor show that aired for free was as much a good-will move done by GoFightLive to ROH as it was from ROH to their fans.

“A couple of weeks ago, David Klarman — who is the President of GoFightLive — sent us a message and basically said, ‘I think we can deliver the product that you want and your company wants.’ I said, ‘David, I’m always open to listening but I’m not going to ask anybody to commit to it, paying for it unless we know we can deliver it.'”

“David graciously offered to provide the Philadelphia stream for free through GoFightLive .”

In what was just the story of ROH on iPPV, last week’s show suffered a number of technical problems — audio issues, freezing, stuttering, black-screens, etc. — which ended up making the show unwatchable for a large majority of viewers.

“I thought we did pretty well the first half of the show and then again, something happened right after the first half , it was after the intermission after the BJ Whitmer interview and the subsequent matches after that that there seemed to be a backlog and just a bunch of problems on the end-user’s end.”

“I don’t want the fans to go through that experience. Our product is so strong, our product is so good, our guys work so hard… if I can’t deliver that to the best possible way, I’d rather not. I’m not against trying and I will always continue to try.”

While iPPV may not be the ideal way right now to market their product, Joe Koff was asked about how the company was doing as far as TV ratings go for their Ring of Honor Wrestling weekly series.

“I am very pleased with the ratings on Ring of Honor TV. I will tell you that on a regular basis, we have probably ten markets — and these are in the metered overnight markets because I can see that every week — doing right around and well over a 1.0 rating on the weekends and these are programs that are airing at 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m.”

Since ROH already has television and an audience to build off of, host Bryan Alvarez suggested the possibility of putting on just one traditional Pay-Per-View that the Ring of Honor television shows and events would build towards.

“I think it’s very fair,” Koff replied, “I think it’s something that I kind of envisioned going forward.”

When asked about whether the iPPV were bringing in more revenue than what Sinclair provides ROH with their TV series and worth keeping around, Koff assuredly stated, “No, they’re not but the fans have this expectation that that’s the big show.”

There were ideas thrown around in the interview about the viability of putting on a live broadcast of Ring of Honor across their Sinclair stations that would be similar to the Clash of the Champions specials (popular events held on free TV by Jim Crockett Promotions and later World Championship Wrestling that drew big ratings), but Koff explained that it really has to be planned far in advance due to the contractual obligations Sinclair has with its affiliates.

Koff then went back to the ratings for his ROH TV programs.

“I track Ion’s ratings for WWE [Superstars] which is on Wednesday nights on prime-time and then I look at our metered market ratings on the weekends and there are weeks that we are tenths of a point apart in overall delivery.”

Of course, he went to explain that he wasn’t necessarily comparing his company to the mega-corporation known as the WWE, but he was proud of how well they’ve been performing on television in comparison to one of their weekly shows.

When asked about the general viewership for the Death Before Dishonor XI show that aired for free and how it compared to the other shows that carry the $15 price tag, Koff assured the viewers that it was the most subscribed event in their history of doing iPPVs.

“I would like to believe it was because of the content,” Koff said, “but I think it was because it was free.”

Koff even noted that despite putting out the announcement three hours before the show went live, the show grew tremendously in viewers — presumably as they were finding out about the show — putting on the most number of viewers ever for a GoFightLive event at the peak of the broadcast. Koff threw out that they eclipsed 4,000 buys for the event at one point.

The general conclusion is that Ring of Honor is too big for iPPV due to the amount of viewers it attracts and the possible stress it puts on GoFightLive airing the live streams, but too small to run traditional Pay-Per-Views. Alvarez asked if it were possible for a one-off PPV event that would measure how much bigger their audience have gotten to possibly avoid a money-losing situation.

“It’ll be a money-loser because the cable companies are taking a piece of that. Satellite transmission costs a lot of money.”

Koff even stated that they modeled the possibility of putting on events on Pay-Per-View, but he doesn’t feel that the fans are ready to pay around $40-50 for their events in big numbers to make a profit on the shows and it just doesn’t make sense financially for them right now.

Ring of Honor is stuck in the middle between being able to hold profitable PPV events that suffer far less problem than iPPVs do and trying to experiment with ways to deliver their events to as many people as possible.

Any ideas on what Ring of Honor should do to finally gain traction in the wrestling industry? Were you able to watch Death Before Dishonor XI without any problems? Let us know in the comments below.