Grateful Dead Pumps Life Into Resurgent PPV Event Category

The Grateful Dead's successful trio of pay-per-view concerts over the July 4th weekend continued what has been a strong showing from an invigorated PPV event category in 2015.

While cable, satellite and telco distributors are still counting buys from the July 3-5 Fare Thee Well final tour from the legendary rock band, estimates from executives close to the event say the PPV buys will most likely range between 120,000 and 150,000. If the numbers finish up on the higher end, the concert package will reach rarified territory within the PPV music category.

It has been more than 16 years since a PPV music event has approached a similar six-figure buy mark, when a 1999 Backstreet Boys concert generated 160,000 PPV buys.

Add to the Dead's figures an approximate additional 200,000 online buys of a streaming package including the three PPV concerts plus two other Dead shows, and together they will most likely measure up as one of the most successful PPV music events of all time.

That would go hand in hand with the record-breaking performance of the May 2 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao PPV boxing event, which obliterated all PPV event records in generating more than 4 million buys and $4.4 million in PPV revenue. Distributors are still counting buys from that event, which could push those totals even higher.

The UFC, coming off a successful UFC 189 PPV event this past Saturday (July 12), is also in the midst of pinning down one of its best performing PPV years ever.
The combination of quality and -- in the case of the final Grateful Dead shows and the much anticipated Mayweather-Pacquiao bout -- once-in-a-lifetime events, along with a strong marketing push from affiliates, has yielded a successful one-two punch for the PPV event category.

Industry executives are hoping to continue the momentum with a number of possible fall music and ring sports events being discussed, although one major PPV fight may go by the wayside.

The industry had been preparing for a Sept. 12  Mayweather PPV event -- the sixth and last fight for the pound-for-pound champ as part of his deal with Showtime -- but recent reports point to Mayweather fighting his next fight on broadcast network CBS.

Mayweather has not officially announced who he's fighting in September. The PPV industry generally needs two to three months of lead time to market and promote a major PPV event, so the longer Mayweather delays in making an announcement, the greater the chance the fight will end up on free TV.

Still, the lack of a September Mayweather fight won't take the shine off of what has been a terrific year so far for the PPV event category.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.