New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), on the heels of a partnership with Jeff Jarrett to bring a live broadcast of their flaghip event Wrestle Kingdom to English-speaking audiences and a weekly television show highlighting their recent history, held a morning press conference (Japanese time) today to announce that they're following WWE into the over-the-top distribution game.
The service, called New Japan World, will cost 999 yen per month (at current exchange rates, $8.40 U.S., $9.60 Canadian and £5.38 U.K.). For that, fans will get all of the company's live events starting in December, where there are four planned. The move follows WWE's lead of cannibalizing pay-per-view (PPV) business, since for the flat monthly fee, subscribers will be getting big event shows such as Wrestle Kingdom that cost ¥1800 - ¥3500 under the old model.
The Wrestling Observer, from whose report most of the information in this post comes, also believes that NJPW is taking their service one step further and severing ties with their television partner, Samurai! TV. Samurai! had aired all of the company's Korakuen Hall shows, which were rough equivalents to Raw - but those will now be available on NJW.
New Japan World does follow the WWE Network's model in terms of offering archived content and new productions such as documentaries. The wrestling content dates back to 1972, and includes all of the important matches and shows from the past three years. Features include in-depth looks at historically sigificant programs such as Antonio Inoki vs. Willem Ruska, Inoki vs. Hulk Hogan, Tiger Mask vs Dynamite Kid and Keiji Muto vs. Nobuhiko Takada.
Takāki Kidani, founder of NJPW's parent company, Bushiroad, spoke at the the press conference and stated that New Japan is currently the #2 pro wrestling company in the world with the #1 pro wrestling product, and the goal of their recent moves is to overtake WWE for the #1 overall spot. The target for first year subscriptions to NJW is 100,000.
In some respects, having another industry player like NJPW follow their lead validates WWE's move to a streaming model.
The upside may be greater for New Japan, however, since their international PPV business was negligible. It shouldn't take a significantly large increase in international subscribers to match the revenue they were getting from selling shows under the old model, even though the purchase of the entire G1 Climax series can be made for a month or two of a subscription rather than the more than $100 U.S. it has cost the last two years. New Japan World will probably also result in some revenue where the company was getting none from foreign customers using pirated streams.
There doesn't appear to be a plan in place to offer translated versions of the product on the streaming channel, unlike Global Force Wrestling (GFW)'s presentation of WK9 and the AXS TV show. The entire site for New Japan World is in Japanese, for instance. There also is no mention of support for streaming players such as Apple TV or Roku, so this may be a phone/tablet/computer only delivery model at this time.
What do you think of the move, Cagesiders? Could NJPW become a legitimate global competitor to Vince McMahon's sports entertainment empire? Will this streaming service make it more likely that you'll check them out?