Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter
In the continuing story of the Jinder Mahal push and the business reasons behind it, WWE has said that when you include all forms of consumption of the WWE product, which would be television viewers, social media followers and YouTube clip viewers, that India is the No. 1 market, with the U.S. second and South Africa third.
The problem with that, as noted many times, is that consumption and money are two different things. If you strip away the television rights fees, where India is third behind the U.S. (which dominates) and the U.K., the company make very little money from India. And when it comes to YouTube, that category for WWE in the first quarter, digital, actually lost money.
But WWE has opened an office in India and is trying to garner more revenue from the market. If that’s the goal, Mahal as champion shouldn’t be a short-term thing. Making that goal work is a very different story.
The NBA and Yao Ming in China comparisons are obviously the goal. But even so, from those who live in India, WWE and pro wrestling were more popular a few years ago.
Those at Impact were told directly from Sony Six that the belief was that the big Mahal push was directly related to their tour this week. Whether accurate or not, the WWE’s U.K. timing and strategy changed significantly when, in a market WWE dominated, somebody else was coming in with strong television backing. Indeed, the lack of future tapings of the weekly U.K. television show after we were told about plans for monthly tapings and a weekly network show at the same time the ITV project imploded was noteworthy.
At this point, WWE has nothing on the schedule for India this year, although that could change.
Given that even if they do run some live shows, due to ticket prices having to be kept low because people in India rarely pay ticket money for sports events. Other than cricket, most sports run by selling sponsorships to local businesses and then letting people free into the events themselves. WWE on its rare tours did charge ticket money, and given the population and number of television viewers, the paid attendance was disappointing and really not worthwhile, which is why they’ve only done two tours in the last 15 years.
Even with all that consumption, India is not a strong market for the WWE Network. Some of that is because the key driver of the network, the PPV shows, air on regular television and are blacked out on the network, and that will continue to be the case at least through the end of 2019, due to its television contract with Ten Sports.
Plus, there is nothing culturally where people pay money for digital content in India. Like with problems New Japan is having culturally with New Japan World, there is no huge penetration of Netflix or the MLB network to “break people in” to that type of marketplace.
Another issue is that in India, bandwidths are pathetic and only the urban areas have access to good Internet and tons of people have no Internet at all.
WWE merchandise at this point was almost no penetration in the market. That is an area they are working on and that can improve.
There’s also the question of the social media numbers to begin with, since India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and The Philippines are notorious for fake social media numbers.
While Punjabi, the language Mahal talks on television is only spoken by 29 million people out of the 1.34 billion population, Hindi, the primary language is close enough to Punjabi that most in the country can understand his interviews. Dara Singh, the most famous Indian wrestler in history, was from Punjab and was a huge movie star in Bollywood during and after his wrestling career.