Two years ago, when Chikara ran its Chikarasaurus Rex event for the first time as a joint effort with Dragon Gate USA, they promised a huge announcement during the event that would change the game. That announcement was that the DVDs for the event would be available for purchase the very next day. In an era where even the most instant of things take a little time to marinate and develop before being available for release, that was a pretty big deal. That announcement was the first in an evolution for Chikara's DVD distributors, Smart Mark Video, that led them to their current state today, where they now have events for Chikara, Absolute Intense Wrestling, Anarchy Championship Wrestling and other promotions they distribute for, available immediately after purchase streaming through their new Video on Demand portal.
In two years, Smart Mark Video has pretty much changed the game. No longer are DVDs the main mode of non-live viewing, or at least no longer SHOULD they be. Right now, there's no excuse for every distributor out there to be looking into streaming, mp4 downloads and other methods of quickly turned-around, instantly available media for consumption. Obviously, Ring of Honor and DGUSA themselves have innovated in the iPPV market, but at the same time, their non-iPPV broadcasts are still only available through DVD purchase. Furthermore, companies like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, SHIMMER and really every other company out there that doesn't either produce through SMV or have iPPV options lags behind.
Timeliness is often the key for relevance. It's no surprise that as technology developed for other sports and entertainment models that their presence in the marketplace, and thus their viability as surviving entities, grew as well. Tape-delayed playoff games became a thing of the past with satellite technology. More sophisticated cable networks gave way to inclusive sports-ticket packages and on demand streaming of movies and television shows. It's gotten to the point where the technology has exceeded the methods of measuring usage, and shows that often pull lower ratings or do so-so in the box office actually thrive due to things like DVR and Netflix.
WWE and to an extent TNA have the resources to utilize these things, and have for awhile. Finally though, the technology has become affordable enough so that independent companies can make use of it and be able to show their wares as close to the original release date as possible. No longer does one have to wait a month to watch a Chikara event with the combined production time on DVDs and shipping time. Within a week or so, the event is available for download and streaming, and boom, now more people around the country can catch up so that when Chikara comes to their town, they're not so behind.
Obviously, there are pitfalls with having this kind of technology available. Piracy hits the independent community harder than it ever does to WWE and TNA because they have the money and the built-in audience that frankly either doesn't know how to pirate or is too scared to do it for fear of legal repercussion. The indies usually are promotions that live gate to gate and need the extra dollars from non-live revenue to be able to afford to bring in the guest stars that end up boosting sales in the long run. This kind of easy access only makes it easier for pirates to do their damage.
That being said, I've also found that the same kinds of people who are willing to watch and follow indie wrestling are people who are willing to PAY for it and support it. Companies should be trying to make it as easy as possible for people to hand over their money and view their product in a satisfactory manner. Chikara and Smart Mark Video have the right idea here, and they're market innovators. When everyone else catches up, the art of wrestling on the whole will end up being better off for it.