The last three BG East DVDs orders I have placed have left me with mixed feelings. I’m not talking about the DVDs’ contents. I’m more than happy with the products I bought and I’ve always been satisfied with the quality of BGE’s products. What I’m talking about is one of the burning issues about the producer: using physical distribution as its primary method for content delivery. To me that has started to feel more like a problem.
I’ve been a BGE customer for 14 years and by now I know the cycle by heart: BGE releases a new catalog, I jump to see all the match-ups and their descriptions, I get all hyped up and decide to buy at least half of the DVD offerings, I frantically add all the DVDs I want to my shopping cart, I check all my information and still full of excitement I place my order… only to reach the anticlimax. It is then that I remember that it will take at least 4 days (if I’m lucky) to get to see any of it. Up till not so long ago I was kind of “at peace” with the whole cycle, but with the advent of increased bandwidth and digital distribution systems this has come to feel unnecessary, and after the last three catalogs, it has even started to feel obsolete.
Currently, the only other option to buying BGE DVDs is the streamable “Video On Demand (VOD)” service in which for $10 (or an equivalent of “VOD-Tokens”) you get access to a match for 24 hours. Here is a challenge for you: try to watch “Kid Karisma vs. Gabriel Ross” from “Wrestler Spotlight: Kid Karisma” in its entirety in 24 hours. With 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of work, you are left with 8 hours to watch. And everything about that match is so hot, there is no way a human being can finish that match without taking at least three “breaks” (if you know what I mean). If you want to try it, I wish you good luck with that.
As basically all other companies offer either downloads or a streaming service, it is starting to feel as if BGE is out of reasons why it stills does not offers a fair digital distribution system to its customers. Of course, a closer look may reveal how a change like this has its possible downsides too. In this post I will try to identify the factors in favor and against a digital distribution system for BGE as well as its gray zones and my own personal take on the issue.
DVDs Are Dead
Just like VHS, cassettes and floppy disks, CDs and DVDs are being quietly phased out with the media not expected to be around by 2020 (or sooner, if you ask me). A clear indication of this is how newer laptops and even desktop computer models are not including optical disk drives to play CD/DVDs. There is a clear trend toward downloadable/streamable content, with media producers bypassing the physical methods of distribution to make their products available. Like it or not, BG East will have to find an alternative to DVD production at some point.
Making Matches Mobile
A digital distribution service can serve to finally make BG East mobile. Finally, BG East fans could enjoy matches without having to depend on the now disappearing DVD players. It is also quite handy for anyone who doesn’t own a PC, or is far from a TV or their DVD collection. I bet many fans would love this instead of going through all the process of ripping their DVD disks and then transfer the files to their computers, phones or tablets.
Letting People Buy What They Want
One of the biggest complaints you can read on and on about BGE’s DVDs is customers claiming to be paying for matches they don’t want to see. Segmenting DVDs into individual matches could finally allow customers to pay for what they really want. This could serve as an instant feedback mechanism to identify which wrestlers, formats, themes and scenarios are capturing the audience.
Either a download or streaming service will be more effective in cashing on buyers’ impulses looking for instant gratification. And perhaps, digital distribution may also serve as a more private way for content delivery. That would have saved me tons of fake excuses back in the day (16 year-old me: *gulps nervously* “ Umm… That’s a CD companion to my biology book, dad!…” *gulps again*).
The Hidden Costs
You would think downloading goods would be a cheaper option for both you and BGE when compared to having them shipped by good ol’ snail mail. But you’d be surprise of how much would it cost to create and maintain a download/streaming service. Not only it costs a producer to keep their files stored while they are waiting to be downloaded, but there may also be a cost associated to each download or each time a file is played. It may seem “transparent” to us, but these costs may be passed on to consumers in order to keep the service profitable.
Of course such a transformation will need to be accompanied by design changes in order to support the sale and delivery of a digital service. This would mean the website would need to be updated to somehow accommodate the elements of the structure chosen to deliver the content. You could think adding a link saying “WATCH IT NOW FOR $XX.XX” would be enough, but anyone who knows a bit of coding knows this can be a huge project, specially when having such an enormous amount of content and an already existing website. Not only the structure has to work, but it should be user-friendly and also be heavily protected in order to avoid the biggest of all the possible pitfalls…
The Threat Of Piracy
If I had to pick one, I’d blame piracy as the primary reason for why we haven’t seen downloads available yet at BG East. It’s a widespread problem that is really hard to contain and threatens the sustainability of any producer. Piracy is always going to happen and it is obvious that providing digital files facilitates copy infringement acts. The only thing you can do with piracy is contain it, and that will always be a mighty task that needs to be considered in the delivery system design.
To Rent, To Stream or To Download?
Can you imagine a Netflix-like service giving you access to BGE’s full library? Or what about a “Catalog Pass” that will let you watch all matches from the chosen catalog for a certain amount of time? What about the opportunity to preview all matches in full before buying? Perhaps a streaming service would be more effective in curbing piracy, but I would expect a download service making people a lot more happy.
At $10 for 24-hours, the current VOD system at The Arena is the costliest digital delivery service per hour available right now in the industry. Finding the right price point will need to be crucial in order to maintain competitiveness. A price point that is considered too high by possible costumer could drive them away and trigger piracy. A price point that is too low could eventually result in loses. However, if DVDs are split into individual matches we could see an increase in the average match price as we lose the bundle discounts.
Keep The Catalog Format?
The current format of mass releases may be affected by the use of digital delivery. Releasing 6 DVDs will not necessarily work as well as releasing 15 downloadable matches on a single day. A change to digital distribution may threaten the existence of well-rounded catalogs as they may give way to a smaller amount of matches being released within shorter timeframes. Also, some “specialty” or experimental releases may suffer as certain themes or wrestlers prove to be more profitable or it could be the other way around. More experimental opportunities may arise by having a quicker way to deliver content in order to test a new concept. That same quickness may serve to deliver content that feels fresher and still relevant.
Less Materials = Lower Production Costs?
Do less physical DVDs, less time burning DVDs, less product stickers, less DVD sleeves and less shipping charges actually means lower production costs? The introduction of digital delivery will probably require supervision of the system, doing troubleshooting, dealing with customer support and handling a good number of “I can’t download my file” emails. Although the change looks like a money saving move, it will probably not be so until a while after its running.
All of BG East competitors seem to use downloads as their primary way of delivering content and they seem to be doing OK (so far). But the comparison is not totally fair since many of those companies were built based around digital distribution. After this post you may understand how complex a transition to digital distribution can be for BG East and the implications it could have. I believe that the minds behind BG East should definitely have had this debate already and they are either still sorting out how they will implement such service or are already working on it.
I would actually expect BG East to announce some sort of digital platform at some point over the next 12 months. More than expect it, I hope they do, because BG East needs to tackle this issue before it has a profound impact in their future on the underground wrestling scene.