PPV delivers roaring ’90s

Greenberg attributes growth to increased access

NEW YORK — Pay-per-view events came of age as a heavy-duty revenue generator during the 1990s.

That’s the conclusion of a report by Viacom’s SET (Showtime Event TV) that was released at a press luncheon Tuesday.

Counting both movies and events, the PPV industry harvested $7.9 billion in revenues from 1990 through 1999. PPV’s total annual gross revenues have ballooned from $248 million in 1990 to an estimated $1.92 billion in 1999, according to SET.

“To be on the cusp of $2 billion this year in pay-per-view is truly earth-shattering,” said Mark Greenberg, exec VP of corporate strategy and communications for Showtime Networks, who presided over the briefing.

Mustering a total of $1.068 billion for the year, mainstream movies made up more than half of the 1999 haul. Events with names like boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, a half-dozen or so wrestling stars and concerts featuring the likes of New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys, chalked up $486 million of the annual total, while adult-video networks like Playboy, Spice, Hot and TEN (The Erotic Network) pocketed the remaining $367 million.

Within the event category for 1999, various prizefights propelled boxing to a record year, whipping up a total of $219 million. Wrestling also grappled its way to a record year in 1999, grossing $247 million. Concerts finished with $13 million, the category’s second-best yearly PPV record. (The best year for music was 1994, when it racked up $15 million.)

Greenberg said the main reason for PPV’s explosive growth throughout the decade is the accelerating gain in households with access to it. Whereas only 15 million traditional cable households could call up a PPV movie or event in 1990, 26.5 million can do so today.

And the number of homes that bought satellite dishes and became subscribers to DBS companies like DirecTV and EchoStar has shot up from 600,000 in 1994 to 10.2 million this year.

Digital cable has also zoomed, signing up 5.1 million homes since its introduction in 1998.

The advent of more PPV channels in each household has also made it convenient for subscribers to buy movies and events. Traditional cable homes, which were getting an average of only 1.9 PPV channels in 1990, now pick up an average of 6.1. Of that, 1.7 are adult-video channels.

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