On the day that WWE announced that they had finally hit the one million subscriber mark for their network, it's worth sparing a thought about New Japan Pro Wrestling who followed WWE's lead in early December in moving away from pay-per-view, shown on the Internet and satellite in their case, to an online subscription based model.
The decision to do so now doesn't seem quite as unwise as it did when they originally rolled the service out, but they are also faced with many of the same growing pains WWE experienced last year.
That's because they had their biggest show of the year on Jan. 4th, Wrestle Kingdom 9, which should have guaranteed mass subscriptions, but really didn't. It wasn't until late last week that they surpassed the 20,000 subscriber mark, half of the 40,000 subs goal that they had set themselves for the date of their Tokyo Dome extravaganza.
It should be noted that the target was a realistic one that should have been easy for New Japan to achieve, IF Dave Meltzer's reports were true that the Wrestle Kingdom events in 2013 and 2014 had drawn about 100,000 iPPV buys at a much higher price point than the 999 yen it costs for one month's subscription to New Japan World. However, other sources suggest that the 2014 show only did 15,000 total pay-per-view buys, which makes the aim more ambitious, but not completely infeasible due to the drop in price.
Depending on the numbers you believe, it changes the narrative of the story from a statistic that is really hard to explain, to the age old excuses that people are reluctant to adopt new technologies and the demand for pay-per-view is fairly price inelastic.
Regardless, the sluggish start New Japan World has had suggests that they need to copy even more pages from WWE's playbook and offer a free month to all new subscribers, like WWE did last November, so that people can find out what they're missing.
It's important to note that New Japan's break-even point is considerably lower than WWE's is, so they don't need a million subscribers for it to be a success, but clearly 20,000 subs isn't going to cut it either. They need to hope that they can grow their current base to acceptable levels like WWE has shown signs of doing today.
Wish them luck, Cagesiders, it might be much tougher going than WWE has had, due to their lack of international popularity and mainstream television exposure in their home country.