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ET CETERA - Jay lashes back at, um, Backlash.
by Jay Spree on 2002-04-24

So where have I been the past two weeks?

Tempting as it is to just say “the usual”, it was actually a little more than that this time. As you may or may not be aware, I was amazingly proud to have landed the spot of DVD Honcho at what used to be . However, due to server problems, the site went into limbo and ultimately everyone emigrated to, putting me out of a job.

This was a bitter pill for me, and I really haven’t been much in the mood for writing much since then. What can I say? I’m sorry you guys reading my wrestling column always have to put up with the backdraft from all my other shit.

So why am I back now? Well, the guys on TheSmarks notice boards decided that they weren’t going to let the site die, and they are relaunching under the name in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll be on board resuming my DVD duties. Which means I’m a happy F’n bunny who’s back doing his wrestling column (until the upcoming coursework drive inevitably requires my taking more time off). Bully for us all.

Surprisingly little else has happened these last few weeks. Well, except for our discovery of RoboCop: The Prime Directives – a series of TV movies so awful that they rival even the mighty Plan 9 for “so bad it’s good”-ness. But that’s a story for the DVD site (when it’s up and running).

So, looks like it’s back to bidness!


I’m going to be honest – I haven’t watched Backlash and I’m not going to.


Because I would have had to PAY FOR IT.

I know, I know, it’s called a PAY PER VIEW, but in the UK that’s usually in name only. Y’see, the WWF has traditionally been aired here by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Television. RAW, Smack!Down, and all the magazine shows with the exception of HeAT aired on the satellite network, as did every Federation PPV – for FREE; you did not pay a “Pay Per View” fee, but rather received each show as part of your monthly Sky subscription.

However, just over a year ago, the rights were up for renegotiation, and Sky didn’t want to pay top dollar, and tried to pull a power play on Vince. Well, Vince merrily told them to fuck themselves, and proceeded to sell the rights to Sunday Night HeAT, The Royal Rumble, Backlash, and two other events (which I can’t remember offhand) to Channel 4 – a terrestrial station.

Alas, Channel 4 never really got on with WWF programming, pre-empting HeAT on an almost weekly basis (for bollocks like cricket and Italian football), and playing PPVs on tape-delay in order to insert commercial breaks and censor tables, chairshots, sledgehammers, bare flesh, and violence against women (a la TSN). After a spate of viewer complaints about Rikishi’s use of a sledgehammer (smashing a car window, no less), Channel 4 completely buried their WWF shows until the contract expired at the end of last year.

So, 2002 rolls around, and there is no broadcasting deal in place to air one of the biggest PPVs of the year, The Royal Rumble. So, Sky “heroically” jump in to “save the day” by striking a “last minute deal” with the WWF, and offer the Rumble as a bona fide PAY PER VIEW event for the first time in UK history. Not good, although who could turn down the Rumble? Then Backlash rolls around, and it becomes apparent that this was another of the 4 WWF main events Channel 4 formerly held the rights to. Once again, Sky jumps in, once again, we have to pay for the show.

Definitely not good.

Now, I know what most every US reader is thinking: “What’s the big deal? You’re supposed to pay for a PPV – we’ve been paying for them for nearly twenty years – what are those cheapass limeys complaining about?”

The thing is, the TV industry is a LOT different here. Remember that cable TV didn’t hit the UK until nearly twenty years after it did the US. THAT’S A LOT OF GROUND TO MAKE UP. Until very recently, most homes didn’t even have a satellite dish, limiting them to the four free terrestrial channels we’ve had up until recently. We pay a yearly “Television License” in order to fund our public service broadcaster, the BBC. The additional monthly subscription fee in order to receive satellite/cable television has been, for a LONG time, heavily resented by consumers. The fact is, people are not yet willing to buy into the Pay Per View ideology – you need look no further than the recent demise of sports channel ITV Digital (which is likely to bankrupt an entire soccer league) for proof of that. And, right or wrong, that attitude’s not going to change for a while.

Right now, all of a sudden, we are having to Pay Per View for four WWF main events per year (not including the two annual UK-only shows which we are somewhat less resentful of having to pay for), which we have been receiving for free for the last decade. When you consider that this includes distinctly missable shows like Backlash, something’s got to give.

So, in short, I refused to Pay Per View, as did many other viewers. As the old rights roll over and renew, the situation is only going to get worse; what with the WWF adding another four shows a year, UK audiences will ultimately end up having to purchase EIGHTEEN annual shows. When you consider that with the current PPV landscape in the UK, most parents are still unwilling to pay four bucks to watch a PPV movie a few months before its network broadcast, Sky and the WWF are taking a huge gamble with a fanbase which has been unfathomably loyal for twenty years.

Just my take.

No Code Blue/Afterthoughts from me this week – sorry. You know how I am when I take time off. Always need a week or so to be lazy…

As I said, hopefully it’s back to business as usual now, but bear in mind it is my last month of University so things might get a little crazy. So all things being equal, I’ll see you next week.


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