Could British Wrestling Benefit from the Netflix Effect?

With the return of WoS Wrestling to terrestrial television and the imminent launch of WWE UK on the hugely successful WWE Network, there’s plenty of British wrestling still to go round and plenty of outlets for companies to get exposure.

Traditional television aside, Netflix continues to be the power player in on-demand television, whilst BBC Three plods along as a streaming service and Amazon Prime still finds its identity as a go-to source for modern entertainment.

The benefit of embracing on-demand is clear for any wrestling company, no matter how big or small. No longer reliant on physical media – though there’s still a market for that – companies can upload their shows with less of an outlay, along with supplemental content, on a monthly subscription model. Most companies, in one form or other, have their own answer to Netflix, albeit as a fractured model across the business. There have been a few umbrella sites offering more than one promotion for a fixed fee, but there’s been no drive for an “everyone under one roof” approach that would certainly appeal to fans across the world.

So, we go back to the old whilst embracing the new – a company on a “channel” of some sort, somewhere. Lower overheads, on-demand access and a viewership that is, by its nature, looking for new things to watch whenever they want to watch it and the aforementioned prime players could be where British wrestling companies need to look to step up their viewership and expand their business.

Netflix has already given us two seasons of GLOW and documentaries on wrestling and done so with the critical acclaim. Whilst they don’t have anything like it in the UK, they do stream Lucha Underground in the US and Canada. A bit of negotiation and they could probably stream that in the UK, too. With Ring of Honor bringing a product to Amazon Prime with DoJo Pro, it can only be a matter of time before the other major on-demand players step foot in the squared circle and they’ll want content that’s ready to go.

Closer to home, though, there’s plenty of companies who could bring quality content to on-demand, especially for those who are already doing the job on a smaller scale.  They’ll need to think big and bold, but isn’t that what wrestling is all about? It’d be easy to see PROGRESS and ICW as Netflix ready; both have hugely successful streaming services under their belt, but both are or have been courted by WWE and rumours have persisted for years that they’re WWE Network bound.

With the likes of family-friendly companies including NGW, complete with its TV ready HD presentation, already taking to local terrestrial television whilst also embracing YouTube for those who don’t want to watch in standard definition, they’d be a shoe-in for Netflix or Amazon Prime. An easily accessible, well-produced product that appeals to audiences of all ages, NGW could be a prime player for a WoS Wrestling hungry audience who want to see more, just not on the television!

Elsewhere, there are companies that, whilst largely family friendly, aren’t afraid to push the envelope. 3CW, in the North East, put their shows on their own streaming service, as do other contenders for the online crown. For 3CW, they’ve adopted a familiar model to any wrestling fan in the YouTube Generation; they post the occasional full match, enticing people towards their on-demand service for more content from their illustrious history, including full shows with professional commentary.  It’s this care and attention to the future consumption of the product that sets many companies apart from the lesser known ones – it’s not just about being there, it’s about the lasting experience and the ability to say “you’re not sure if we’re for you? Watch this!”

Whilst Netflix and Amazon Prime may seem the ideal choice, for subscription-free on-demand, BBC Three’s online content is edgy and with a 16-34 demographic would be a perfect home for OTT over in Ireland, Frontline Wrestling, Will Ospreay’s promotion or one of the manic underdogs of the North, RISE. Based in Leeds, RISE also provides Patreon funders with extra content in a bold move that, hopefully, reaps the rewards it deserves.

From BBC Three, of course, it’s not a huge step to envisage one of these companies reach BBC One or BBC Two. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t long ago that Insane Fight Club achieved superb viewing figures, twice, in post-watershed slots!

Defiant, arguably one of the best-known companies in the UK, streams live shows via their Access Defiant service, as well as providing archive content via both that service and content via YouTube.  There are very few UK companies that stream live shows and Defiant are leading the way in that corner of British wrestling.  They’re also hugely prolific with their show schedule, giving on-demand viewers exactly what they demand… a consistent flow of content.

The difficulty of streaming is that there’s a high demand for content. Running a show a month may not be enough to sate the appetites of content providers and historical content would only get you so far. Few companies run weekly shows, that said there’s an argument for a specially edited show, as NGW have done.  Their weekly TV/YouTube show features one or two matches an episode, allowing content from one live show to be striped over a number of weeks. It’s how DoJo Pro do it over on Amazon Prime, binge-worthy half-hour episodes that you could dip into whenever the mood takes you.

It takes a brave promoter to put their company forward, to break new ground and present their product to a broadcaster and outshine other products that are vying for space, but this is a brave new world of home entertainment. On-demand is in-demand, and so is a steady flow of new, different and quality content. That’s where British wrestling is, for the most part – new, different and quality. We just need others to see that.