AXS TV is investing heavily in its partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW); acquiring expensive broadcast rights to Wrestle Kingdom 12. AXS will air the top 3 Title matches from the event in primetime on Saturday January 6th, with the balance playing out over the next 6 Friday nights during their regularly scheduled weekly program. Language barriers prevent NJPW stars from connecting with the audience through gimmicks, so NJPW focuses on the action; targeting wrestling purists while distinguishing itself from the WWE. Chairman Mark Cuban said that weekly viewership numbers continue to increase and that NJPW beats MMA on some nights; predicting a future with “more NJPW and less MMA” on the network.
Howie Long-Short: NJPW is privately held, but you can play the wrestling outfit through AXS as CBS took stake in the company back in 2013. You can also invest in the TV Asahi Corporation, the distributor for NJPW and the company responsible for produce the English television broadcast of Wrestle Kingdom 12. TV Asahi Holdings Corp. trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange under the symbol 9409. If NJPW is beating MMA on some nights, the UFC is unlikely to find the $450 million/year it’s seeking. Current rights holder FOXA has already low-balled them ($200 million), seeing the WWE as a viable replacement programming (rights expire in ’19). The WWE is the safer bet. Wrestling is scripted, with fans tuning in weekly for the story lines; MMA’s top fighters are showcased in PPV events, resulting in depressed ratings for weekly programming. There are simply too many variables (injuries, steroid use/testing, time off required between fights etc.) for MMA to consistently draw ratings.
Fan Marino: WWE fans will be excited to learn that Hall of Fame announcer and color commentator Jim Ross is the voice of NJPW. Ross’ finest work came during an Undertaker/Mankind match at 1998’s Hell in a Cell. Skip to the 1:46 mark to listen to the legendary call.
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