Something a little lighter for a Saturday. Last week subscription televsion GAA coverage finally became a reality in Ireland. The public backlash has been as expected. Many fans of Gaelic Games are upset that they may now have to pay to watch live coverage of Championship games previously available on free-to-air TV. Paul O’Sullivan discusses the issue at length here.
However, spare a thought for fans of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). With the exception of a limited number of hours per week on Sky One, all WWE action broadcast in Ireland and the United Kingdom is only available through subscription channel Sky Sports. Those of us from a particular vintage will remember the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and the recently deceased Ultimate Warrior parading under the previous banner WWF. These legends have been replaced by new stars on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown, weekly staples for fans of sports entertainment.
On a monthly basis, a ‘main event’ takes place. These events are not available on subscription television but are hosted on a pay-per-view platform. On Sunday last, WrestleMania XXX was hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana. Irish fans had to pay the princely sum of €21.95 for live television coverage of the event.
Very few events are broadcast through this medium but demand must exist in this country if the pay-per-view route is used. It’s curious that such an approach is taken for what can only be described as a minority ‘sport’.
This leads to another curious question. WrestleMania is the highlight of the WWE calendar. First hosted in 1984 the event has grown in size and stature. WrestleMania 29 had a greater attendance than the 2013 Super Bowl and is estimated to have generated more than $100 million for the New Jersey economy.
The hosting venue has followed a quite unusual pattern. Peak attendance occurred in 1987 at WrestleMania III when 93,173 people packed into the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Four years later just over 16,000 fans attended the sold-out event at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. WrestleMania 2000 had just 18,034 spectators at the event, yet the following year nearly 70,000 fans gathered for WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston, Texas.
Interestingly, since 2007 WrestleMania has been held at a stadium with capacity for 70,000+ fans. Furthermore, each of the seven states selected to host the event from 2007 to 2013 (with the exception of swing state Michigan) traditionally vote Republican in US Presidential elections. In fact, there has been a movement away from typical Democratic states towards more Republican ones over the life of WrestleMania. Following nearly a decade of 70,000+ attendees it’s hard to understand why the event would ever return to a 20,000 capacity venue, as happened from 2004 to 2006.
California is due to host WrestleMania 31. The Democratic state hosted the event in 1991, 1996, 2000 and 2005 with a peak attendance of just 20,193 in 2005. The combined attendance over the four events was 73,238, less than turned up to WrestleMania XXX last Sunday night. However, the 68,000+ Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA will host next year’s event and give many more fans of the Golden State a chance to watch their favourite stars in sports entertainment.