Good news for Ring Of Honor Wrestling fans, it seems like their new television show on Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates has been an initial ratings success. Dave Meltzer reported in his latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter that ROH's TV show is drawing similar ratings to TNA in (at least some of) the markets they air in. If that's true, then I think it's a truly remarkable feat, given the poorer time slots ROH airs in and their lack of mainstream stars, though it also exposes what a shoddy job the Carter family has done at building their Impact Wrestling brand and capitalising on their big name acquisitions.
However, if the history of TNA on Spike TV has taught us anything, then it's that drawing a solid rating to keep the network happy is relatively easy, but turning those viewers into paying customers is an uphill battle. The same was true for ECW when they aired on TNN, as being on a national cable outlet didn't lead to better house show attendance or pay-per-view buy rates. Can ROH succeed where TNA and ECW before them have so far failed?
Early indications aren't good. Last weekend ROH had their first house show in a market (Collinsville, Illinois, near St. Louis) that airs their new television show, but their paid attendance was just 325 fans, probably due to a weak on paper lineup. The last time they ran a show there on July 23rd 2010 they drew a hundred fans more. Of course, you should never overreact to one disappointing number, but advances to their next several house shows in TV markets are also weak.
Moreover, just like talent costs increased when TNA brought in Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Mr. Anderson to take WWE on head to head in 2010 in what turned out to be an ill fated Monday Night Massacre, Sinclair Broadcasting are paying the ROH talent much better than former owner Cary Silkin did and are also taking care of their road expenses. Consequently they now need 700 fans per house show to break even, a level that seems impossible to hit in the short term at least. So the question becomes are ROH's ratings good enough for Sinclair Broadcasting to take such a financial hit? We shall see...