Wrestling Observer Poll Feedback vs WWE PPV Numbers

Study by Chris Harrington using information from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (f4wonline.com)

Timeframe: June 2008 - December 2012
Published: 1/14/2013

I've been thinking about the relationship between WWE PPV buys (both domestic & worldwide) and the poll feedback that is collected by this website and published in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I've looked at this issue before in smaller batches, but with 4.5 years worth of newsletters available, I decided to refresh all of the information and see what insights could be gleamed.

The primary question I'm interesting in answering is "Does WWE PPV Poll Feedback in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter provide an accurate estimate of the actual number of PPV Buys?"

I reviewed all of the Wrestling Observer Poll feedback for the modern issues which are available on the website; data available included the poll numbers (thumbs up/thumbs down/thumbs in the middle) for all WWE PPVs since June 2008 (starting with ONS '08). For PPV buys, I combined several sources - WWE's quarterly SEC filings, Dave's year-end PPV recaps and Dave's November 3Q Domestic/Worldwide PPV recaps.

Here is a visual macro view of all of the WWE PPV information:
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(click on the picture for a larger version)

Initial Observations
    There is relationship a correlation between higher amount of poll feedback and higher number of PPV buys.
    Major PPVs - namely Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble (and also Summerslam) receive the most feedback and also have the highest number of buys.
    Among the B-PPVs (75-300 votes, 100k-300k buys), while the data is tightly clustered generally the higher feedback does correspond with slightly higher buys.

Some interesting outliers where Feedback was much greater than expected:
* No Way Out 2009 was the Feb PPV with two Elimination Chamber matches (Edge performed double-duty that night. He lost the WWE Championship in the first Chamber match, a title eventually won by HHH by pinning the Undertaker. However, later that night, Edge attacked Kofi Kingston and took his place. Edge took the World Championship from John Cena and pinned Rey Mysterio in the second Chamber match.)
* Extreme Rules 2012 was Brock Lesnar's return to WWE PPV in a main event match against John Cena
* MITB 2011 was the John Cena vs CM Punk in Chicago classic with the real life ambiguity surrounding Punk's contracted status
(While not included in this data sample, I recall a similarly large Poll Feedback result for the original ECW One Night Stand in 2005 which had a very respectable result above 300k worldwide buys.)

Here is a chart which focuses on the B-show PPVs in the lower-left corner of the original chart:
This represents 45 PPVs with 200 or less votes and excludes "Major" PPVs (Royal Rumble, Summer Slam, Wrestlemania).
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(click on the picture for a larger version)

Suddenly, the relationship became a lot murkier.

For instance, here are ten PPVs with similar number of worldwide buys, but great variance in the number of votes:
    WWE THE BASH PPV POLL RESULTS 2009: 179 votes / 178k worldwide buys
    WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS 2011: 170 votes / 169k worldwide buys
    WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PPV POLL RESULTS 2010: 157 votes / 164k worldwide buys
    WWE OVER THE LIMIT PPV POLL RESULTS 2012: 134 votes / 172k worldwide buys
    WWE BREAKING POINT PPV POLL RESULTS 2009: 129 votes / 169k worldwide buys
    WWE CYBER SUNDAY PPV POLL RESULTS 2008: 122 votes / 153k worldwide buys
    WWE FATAL FOUR WAY PPV POLL RESULTS 2010: 102 votes / 158k worldwide buys
    WWE TLC PPV POLL RESULTS 2011: 101 votes / 179k worldwide buys
    WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS 2010: 96 votes / 165k worldwide buys
    WWE CAPITOL PUNISHMENT PPV POLL RESULTS 2011: 75 votes / 176k worldwide buys

This result has a lot of implications. Discussion:
* Over the past several years, worldwide PPV market has grown more through expansion into new markets rather than organic growth within existing market. This is also true to a degree with "domestic" buys as the number has been affected by growth in Mexican markets.
* Flattening of month-to-month WWE PPV B-show buys (especially for B-shows without major star cameos such as Rock or Brock Lesnar).
* Increase in amount of "alternative" streaming options for PPVs. This includes piracy (not sure where new media such as WWE app counts) which may generate poll responses but are not captured as traditional PPV buys.
* Suggestion that sample size for this website is not sufficient to estimate worldwide or domestic interest between individual b-show PPVs.
* Domestic percentages continue to fluctuate throughout the years: 65.5% for 2008 (9 events), 62.0% for 2009 (14 events), 55.8% for 2010 (13 events), 58.7% for 2011 (13 events) and 61.9% for 2012 (for 11 events).

Does "quality" of the PPV affect the poll response?
(As with the earlier PPV outliers, we see that certain factors can trigger excessive poll result responses. I was curious whether strongly negative or strongly positive shows generated more responses as compared to actual PPV buys. While highly favorably rated PPV had a coefficient of 16,000 additional worldwide buys for 100% positive feedback, the p-value on this regression was too high for this variable to draw a meaningful conclusion - i.e. the range of values for the coefficient ranged from -31k to +62k.)

If you look at a regression for these 45 datapoints based on up/down/middle votes, you do have a regression that is statistically relevant which suggests:

B-Show PPV Regression (not for Wrestlemania, Summer Slam or Royal Rumble PPV events)
w(up_votes, middle_votes, down_votes) = predicted worldwide buys = 45,861 buys + 605*up_votes + 713*middle_votes + 401*down_votes
d(up_votes, middle_votes, down_votes) = predicted domestic buys = 131,593 buys + 602*up_votes + 463*middle_votes + 572*down_votes

While these models seem authoritative, it should be noted that in both of these regressions the adjusted r-squared was below 30%.

(The is a large distribution of error on these models. Compare these examples:

WWE Extreme Rules 2010 had 201k worldwide buys, 112k domestic buys and PPV feedback of 61 up, 39 middle and 23 down.
Estimated domestic is 45861+605*61+713*39+401*23=45861+36905+27807+9223=120k domestic and 131593+602*61+463*39+572*23=131593+36722+18057+13156=200k worldwide buys. The model was pretty close.

WWE Night of Champions 2008 had 273k worldwide buys, 180k domestic buys and PPV feedback of 73 up, 66 middle and 20 down. Estimate domestic is 145k domestic and estimated worldwide is 218k. It's 35k off on domestic and nearly 55k too low on worldwide.)

(I also looked at regressions that took into account other variables such as year (looking a dwindling base of PPV purchasers). It suggested that each year in this data sample there were about 8,677 less viewers.)

Conclusion:
I was interested in isolating whether there was a clear relationship between # of poll responses and PPV buys. It is true in a macro-sense in that the major events (by # of buys) do receive far more feedback than the minor events. However, among the minor events, there was not a clean relationship between poll responses and actual number of worldwide or domestic buys.

In other regressions, I have found that there may be relationships between PPV price points, strength of card (i.e. which stars are or are not appearing and use of "drawing" gimmicks such as Hell in a Cell), interest leading to PPV (such as ratings and number of weeks of "build"), time of year (build to WM vs winter lull) and other such factors which can be used to predict the number of PPV buys. However, in general, there does not appear to sufficient evidence that WO Poll Numbers for b-shows are strong and accurate predictors of final PPV buys number to a serious degree of precision.

6/11/08: WWE ONE NIGHT STAND PPV POLL RESULTS = 194k worldwide buys; 126k domestic buys = 137 total votes (106 up, 19 middle, 12 down)
7/7/08: WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS = 273k worldwide buys; 180k domestic buys = 159 total votes (73 up, 66 middle, 20 down)
7/29/08: WWE GREAT AMERICAN BASH PPV POLL RESULTS = 196k worldwide buys; 123k domestic buys = 145 total votes (64 up, 52 middle, 29 down)
8/25/08: WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV POLL RESULTS = 477k worldwide buys; 301k domestic buys = 222 total votes (175 up, 24 middle, 23 down)
9/15/08: WWE UNFORGIVEN PPV POLL RESULTS = 211k worldwide buys; 133k domestic buys = 99 total votes (38 up, 43 middle, 18 down)
10/13/08: WWE NO MERCY PPV POLL RESULTS = 261k worldwide buys; 230k domestic buys = 150 total votes (111 up, 31 middle, 8 down)
11/3/08: WWE CYBER SUNDAY PPV POLL RESULTS = 153k worldwide buys; 92k domestic buys = 122 total votes (73 up, 30 middle, 19 down)
12/1/08: WWE SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POLL RESULTS = 319k worldwide buys; 191k domestic buys = 172 total votes (32 up, 31 middle, 109 down)
12/22/08: WWE ARMAGEDDON PPV POLL RESULTS = 193k worldwide buys; 116k domestic buys = 100 total votes (68 up, 31 middle, 1 down)
2/2/09: WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PPV POLL RESULTS = 450k worldwide buys; 288k domestic buys = 220 total votes (146 up, 60 middle, 14 down)
2/23/09: WWE NO WAY OUT PPV POLL RESULTS = 272k worldwide buys; 174k domestic buys = 235 total votes (191 up, 21 middle, 23 down)
4/13/09: WWE WRESTLEMANIA PPV POLL RESULTS = 975k worldwide buys; 605k domestic buys = 581 total votes (307 up, 151 middle, 123 down)
5/4/09: WWE BACKLASH PPV POLL RESULTS = 182k worldwide buys; 116k domestic buys = 156 total votes (143 up, 5 middle, 8 down)
5/25/09: WWE JUDGMENT DAY PPV POLL RESULTS = 228k worldwide buys; 146k domestic buys = 96 total votes (90 up, 6 middle, 0 down)
6/15/09: WWE EXTREME RULES PPV POLL RESULTS = 213k worldwide buys; 136k domestic buys = 122 total votes (93 up, 25 middle, 4 down)
7/6/09: WWE THE BASH PPV POLL RESULTS = 178k worldwide buys; 114k domestic buys = 179 total votes (32 up, 78 middle, 69 down)
8/3/09: WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS = 267k worldwide buys; 166k domestic buys = 147 total votes (45 up, 65 middle, 37 down)
8/31/09: WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV POLL RESULTS = 369k worldwide buys; 229k domestic buys = 181 total votes (132 up, 15 middle, 34 down)
9/21/09: WWE BREAKING POINT PPV POLL RESULTS = 169k worldwide buys; 105k domestic buys = 129 total votes (41 up, 38 middle, 50 down)
10/12/09: WWE HELL IN A CELL PPV POLL RESULTS = 283k worldwide buys; 174k domestic buys = 145 total votes (64 up, 42 middle, 39 down)
11/2/09: WWE BRAGGING RIGHTS PPV POLL RESULTS = 181k worldwide buys; 105k domestic buys = 126 total votes (46 up, 69 middle, 11 down)
11/30/09: WWE SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POLL RESULTS = 235k worldwide buys; 146k domestic buys = 113 total votes (62 up, 39 middle, 12 down)
12/21/09: WWE TABLES, LADDERS & CHAIRS PPV POLL RESULTS = 228k worldwide buys; 116k domestic buys = 97 total votes (83 up, 4 middle, 10 down)
2/8/10: WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PPV POLL RESULTS = 465k worldwide buys; 259k domestic buys = 220 total votes (147 up, 44 middle, 29 down)
3/1/10: WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER PPV POLL RESULTS = 287k worldwide buys; 160k domestic buys = 147 total votes (109 up, 20 middle, 18 down)
4/5/10: WRESTLEMANIA 26 PPV POLL RESULTS = 885k worldwide buys; 495k domestic buys = 526 total votes (408 up, 82 middle, 36 down)
5/3/10: WWE EXTREME RULES PPV POLL RESULTS = 201k worldwide buys; 112k domestic buys = 123 total votes (61 up, 39 middle, 23 down)
5/31/10: WWE OVER THE LIMIT PPV POLL RESULTS = 218k worldwide buys; 121k domestic buys = 105 total votes (11 up, 17 middle, 77 down)
6/30/10: WWE FATAL FOUR WAY PPV POLL RESULTS = 158k worldwide buys; 88k domestic buys = 102 total votes (54 up, 23 middle, 25 down)
7/26/10: WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PPV POLL RESULTS = 164k worldwide buys; 98k domestic buys = 157 total votes (143 up, 11 middle, 3 down)
8/23/10: WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV POLL RESULTS = 349k worldwide buys; 209k domestic buys = 262 total votes (51 up, 109 middle, 102 down)
9/27/10: WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS = 165k worldwide buys; 99k domestic buys = 96 total votes (23 up, 54 middle, 19 down)
10/11/10: WWE HELL IN A CELL PPV POLL RESULTS = 210k worldwide buys; 111k domestic buys = 126 total votes (51 up, 25 middle, 50 down)
11/3/10: WWE BRAGGING RIGHTS PPV POLL RESULTS = 137k worldwide buys; 73k domestic buys = 134 total votes (23 up, 32 middle, 79 down)
11/29/10: WWE SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POLL RESULTS = 244k worldwide buys; 125k domestic buys = 156 total votes (55 up, 50 middle, 51 down)
12/27/10: WWE TABLES, LADDERS AND CHAIRS PPV POLL RESULTS = 195k worldwide buys; 101k domestic buys = 137 total votes (123 up, 12 middle, 2 down)
2/7/11: WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PPV POLL RESULTS = 476k worldwide buys; 281k domestic buys = 386 total votes (258 up, 69 middle, 59 down)
2/28/11: WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER PPV POLL RESULTS = 212k worldwide buys; 145k domestic buys = 186 total votes (181 up, 4 middle, 1 down)
4/11/11: WRESTLEMANIA 27 PPV POLL RESULTS = 1124k worldwide buys; 679k domestic buys = 644 total votes (227 up, 204 middle, 213 down)
5/10/11: WWE EXTREME RULES PPV POLL RESULTS = 216k worldwide buys; 108k domestic buys = 127 total votes (126 up, 0 middle, 1 down)
5/30/11: WWE OVER THE LIMIT PPV POLL RESULTS = 145k worldwide buys; 72k domestic buys = 98 total votes (18 up, 29 middle, 51 down)
6/27/11: WWE CAPITOL PUNISHMENT PPV POLL RESULTS = 176k worldwide buys; 85k domestic buys = 75 total votes (36 up, 16 middle, 23 down)
7/25/11: WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PPV POLL RESULTS = 205k worldwide buys; 146k domestic buys = 394 total votes (394 up, 0 middle, 0 down)
8/24/11: WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV POLL RESULTS = 311k worldwide buys; 180k domestic buys = 176 total votes (132 up, 19 middle, 25 down)
9/26/11: WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS = 169k worldwide buys; 109k domestic buys = 170 total votes (51 up, 45 middle, 74 down)
10/12/11: WWE HELL IN A CELL PPV POLL RESULTS = 182k worldwide buys; 93k domestic buys = 75 total votes (44 up, 23 middle, 8 down)
10/31/11: WWE VENGEANCE PPV POLL RESULTS = 121k worldwide buys; 70k domestic buys = 96 total votes (40 up, 37 middle, 19 down)
11/28/11: WWE SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POLL RESULTS = 281k worldwide buys; 160k domestic buys = 160 total votes (128 up, 32 middle, 0 down)
12/26/11: WWE TLC PPV POLL RESULTS = 179k worldwide buys; 100k domestic buys = 101 total votes (85 up, 16 middle, 0 down)
2/6/12: WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PPV FEEDBACK = 483k worldwide buys; 299k domestic buys = 274 total votes (45 up, 68 middle, 161 down)
2/27/12: WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER PPV POLL RESULTS = 194k worldwide buys; 138k domestic buys = 193 total votes (71 up, 70 middle, 52 down)
4/9/12: WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII PPV POLL RESULTS = 1219k worldwide buys; 715k domestic buys = 656 total votes (429 up, 103 middle, 124 down)
5/9/12: WWE EXTREME RULES PPV POLL RESULTS = 271k worldwide buys; 159k domestic buys = 374 total votes (317 up, 25 middle, 32 down)
5/28/12: WWE OVER THE LIMIT PPV POLL RESULTS = 172k worldwide buys; 124k domestic buys = 134 total votes (73 up, 40 middle, 21 down)
6/25/12: WWE NO WAY OUT PPV POLL RESULTS = 200k worldwide buys; 110k domestic buys = 124 total votes (8 up, 64 middle, 52 down)
7/23/12: WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PPV POLL RESULTS = 188k worldwide buys; 104k domestic buys = 122 total votes (91 up, 19 middle, 12 down)
8/27/12: WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV POLL RESULTS = 358k worldwide buys; 270k domestic buys = 181 total votes (77 up, 53 middle, 51 down)
9/24/12: WWE NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS PPV POLL RESULTS = 189k worldwide buys; 102k domestic buys = 98 total votes (97 up, 0 middle, 1 down)
11/5/12: WWE HELL IN A CELL PPV POLL RESULTS = 240k worldwide buys; 152k domestic buys = 168 total votes (49 up, 51 middle, 68 down)
11/26/12: WWE SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POLL RESULTS = 193k worldwide buys; 122k domestic buys = 124 total votes (49 up, 62 middle, 13 down)


PPV buys were culled from the SEC filings, Dave's year-end domestic breakdowns and Dave's Nov Q3 PPV chart breakdowns.
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Chris Harrington,
Jan 14, 2013, 7:55 AM
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Chris Harrington,
Jan 14, 2013, 7:56 AM
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Chris Harrington,
Jan 14, 2013, 8:37 AM
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Chris Harrington,
Jan 14, 2013, 8:37 AM
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