SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The announcement that FloSports is launching a streaming service called FloSlam available on Apple TV and Roku along with online browsers and phone apps, is a game changer for independent wrestling. WWN is the first company to be announced for FloSports’s new streaming service, which comes with a $20 per month or $150 per year price tag. The service will feature indy libraries and live iPPVs. Getting the rights to WWN’s library and live shows was a big first step for FloSports.
WWN licensing their library and moving their live iPPVs to FloSlam is a surprise given that WWN and WWE have had a strong working relationship. WWE recently sent out a Fan Council survey for the WWE Network asking subscribers about what kind of content they would be interested in under a new multi-tier billing system for subscribers. The most expensive tier had live indy programming and indy libraries listed as a selling point for subscribers to pony up more money for indy content.
EVOLVE is the most popular indy that features the best rising talent on the scene. EVOLVE officials are insisting that this deal will not have any negative impact on their relationship with WWE. The question remains as to why wouldn’t WWE want to move EVOLVE onto the WWE Network if they were going to get into the business of promoting indy wrestling as a selling point.
According to WWN sources, this deal puts them on stable ground. By partnering with FloSlam to air their live events, more fans are likely to check out EVOLVE shows now that they don’t have to worry about iPPVs not working, as FloSlam will have the same streaming power behind it as live WWE PPVs on the WWE Network. WWN benefits from a new steady revenue stream from FloSports. This will give EVOLVE and other companies that sign with FloSports the ability to be competitive when it comes to signing free agents to contracts.
Suddenly, WWE might be faced with having to pay more to get top indy prospects under contract. Once an indy group signs with FloSports, it’s a game changer for them. No longer do these companies live from show-to-show banking on a mix of live attendance, DVD/Blu-Ray, and iPPV revenue. FloSlam will give these companies more revenue than they ever had. In theory, the exposure on FloSports across the globe should result in more fans than ever checking out independent wrestling for the first time ever.
For FloSlam to be successful, they are going to have to add companies like ROH and NJPW to the streaming service to justify the price. PWG’s back catalog and live iPPVs would be a tremendous addition as well, but that’s not likely to happen given that it would drastically impact PWG’s ability to use contracted talent. PWG seems to be married to the idea of selling physical media before MP4s and VODs, which is strange in 2016 considering most independents release MP4s and VODs before or at the same time as DVDs/Blu-Rays.
The biggest question mark remains whether or not there are more fans out there willing to check out indy wrestling who haven’t before. The truth is that most indy companies from the best down to the worst struggle to make a profit. Usually they go show-to-show and month-to-month trying to cater to a niche audience.
It’s hard to imagine the amount of money FloSports is putting into this project is going to generate enough profit to keep it going long-term unless fans of ROH and NJPW along with fans new to indy wrestling are willing to shell out the cost of a subscription primarily because of the ease of use of the FloSports set-up on Apple TV and Roku and reliability of the service. For this to work long-term, FloSports would have to sign a deal with ROH to air their library and live PPVs. ROH would have to get hot, which would likely maximize the potential profits for FloSports, as ROH could get the word out to their casual audience via their cable and syndication clearances to check out FloSlam and experience ROH’s past and present for a flat cost each month.
NJPW isn’t doing big numbers for their streaming service, but if the company signed a deal with FloSlam to air their PPVs and big shows with English commentary, it would bring in the maximum amount of hardcore wrestling fans into the fold as subscribers. Right now all FloSlam has is the WWN family of promotions, but as of this writing, it is just 24 hours after their announcement. They need more than that, and realistically the biggest thing FloSports could do for this initiative is sign ROH and NJPW to distribution deals. That would give them exposure in the U.S. and in Japan. Otherwise, FloSports is looking at merely “Internet buzz” to drive up their subscriber rate unless they have the budget to advertise on their own.
In the short-term, this is great news for indy wrestling. In the long-term, it’s going to take some work to make FloSlam work. If they sign a big non-WWE company or two to distribution deals to compliment the independent content featured, FloSlam could be the new way people consume indy wrestling for years to come in larger numbers than ever.
It will also be interesting to see what actions WWE takes towards adding indy content to the WWE Network going forward. EVOLVE seemed like the best and most logical fit, but that’s off the table. No matter what happens in the future, this announcement was a game changer and the real winners for now are the talent, who for now will have more options outside of WWE thanks to FloSports launching FloSlam.
(Sean Radican has been a PWTorch columnist for over 15 years, starting as a PWTorch.com Smackdown TV reviewer. He is now among the top reporters on the U.S. indy wrestling scene, with regular contributions to the PWTorch Newsletter in addition to PWTorch.co. Email Sean at email@example.com. Like the Radican Wrestling Community on Facebook. Follow Sean on Twitter @seanradican)