Why ICW are the Kings of the Wrestling World

mark_dallas_and_rhino_backstage

Like many other wrestling fans across the globe, I like to think I could be the next Vince McMahon, I think that I could run my own wrestling company and I always have a million and one storyline ideas running around my head. Someone who got off the couch and actually turned these thoughts in to reality was Mark Dallas. In 2010 Mark ran his first show in front of 30 people, last weekend his company Insane Championship Wrestling ran their biggest show to date at Scotland’s biggest arena ‘The Hydro’ to over 6000 paying fans.

In 2010 if you said the name Mark Dallas to any wrestling fan the response would have been – who is he? Now he is synonymous with the growth of wrestling popularity not only in ICW but across the UK. Mark hasn’t done this with stacks of cash, he has done it with unrivalled creativity and vision, which has seen ICW become one of the most talked about and most influential promotions around the world today.

Going mainstream

ICW were cemented as part of the mainstream when across 2014 and 2015 the BBC produced two incredible documentaries on them called ‘Insane Fight Club.’ These shows broadcast ICW from their native Scotland to across the UK. The documentaries were the biggest TV event for British Wrestling since the World of Sport days during the last golden era for British Wrestling, but now we can say thanks to ICW that a new golden era may just be beginning.

ICW’s annual show ‘Fear & Loathing’ is their flagship show, their version of WrestleMania if you will. In 2014 they sold out the Barrowlands with it, in 2015 they sold out the SECC the second biggest arena in Scotland and although they didn’t sell out at ‘The Hydro’ they grew the crowd by thousands and at their current rate of growth, you wouldn’t put it past them to sell it out within the next two years.

Something different

ICW are so different to any other promotion, not only on the creative end of their product but the business end as well, two things which have been sorely lacking in the UK for some time. Being the visionary that Mark Dallas is in 2015 he announced that ‘Fear & Loathing’ would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 and the day after this year’s incredible show tickets were available for next years show, again at ‘The Hydro.’ Not many other (if any) British wrestling companies plan and promote shows a year in advance but that is how professional ICW is and how forward thinking they are. When ICW announced that they would be at ‘The Hydro’ in 2016 many people thought that it would be a bridge too far, even for ICW but not Mark Dallas, he believed in his product and put in the hard work to make it a success.

What is more incredible about this years success is that they sold over 6000 tickets to ‘The Hyrdo’ without the BBC coverage that they had in the run up to the SECC show in 2015. What ICW managed to do in 2015 was capture peoples imagination and through their product they not only continue to keep fans but their fans continue to be their army, championing their cause, spreading the word and bringing new fans to the promotion.

Competition

ICW had lots going against them this year, first was WWE announcing and holding Raw & Smackdown tapings at ‘The Hydro’ a few weeks before their show. The second thing was the incredible competition in the UK marketplace with Ring of Honor doing a small tour of the UK on the same weekend as ‘Fear & Loathing’ the first UK Ring of Honor tour for 10 years, this was coupled with shows by other great UK Promotions like PCW and RPW holding the very successful Global Wars the weekend before.

Whilst the likes of RPW and RoH were putting on critically acclaimed shows in front of anything from a reported 600 to just over 1000 crowd, ICW blew them out of the water. Don’t get me wrong 600 – 1000 are big numbers in comparison to where this industry has been in the last 10 years but nowhere near ICW’s league. There is one reason why ICW can draw these numbers and transcend the business, that reason is their identity.

Packaging and presentation

The brainchild of Mark Dallas is so strong that ICW is unlike any other. You can see many of the ICW roster on shows across the UK but you can’t see a show like ICW anywhere else. ICW isn’t relying on wrestler star power or so-called ‘dream matches’; ICW’s selling point is its packaging and presentation. An ICW show is an experience unlike anywhere else, the storylines and characters that Mark Dallas creates is what makes ICW one of the most talked about wrestling promotions today.

Like many other promotions from time to time ICW bring in big name imports from America to star on their shows. The difference when ICW brings them in compared to other promotions is that they find a way creatively to sew them in to their storylines and get the most out of them. At ‘Fear & Loathing’ this year they had Kurt Angle, Team 3D, Ricochet and an appearance by Finn Balor but what they did is they found ways to use them to get the local talent over, so they didn’t all win and they all played a part in creating and cementing long term stars in ICW. That takes bravery from Mark Dallas and shows how big ICW are, that big name American wrestlers are happy to do the honours and play their part to help the brand.

The new ECW

Many similarities have been talked about between ICW and infamous American company called ECW, who in the late 90s were seen as the most cutting edge, game changing wrestling promotion. I think a few years ago the similarities may have been seen to many as flattering to ICW but now I think with what ICW have achieved these last two years that it should now be ECW alumni who are flattered by being compared to ICW. If ICW were based out of America and doing what they have been doing for the last 6 years then you would have to start calling them the number two promotion behind the behemoth that is WWE.

The Great British Bake Off

Now as many of you are aware, not only do I work in TV but I am also a huge fan of TV. Something my wife and I look forward to every year on the BBC, is The Great British Bake Off. Now the License Fee gets questioned a lot over here in the UK but I would pay it for this programme alone, let alone all the other amazing BBC services. I was saying the same thing last week about the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics; I would pay the fee for just that as well.

With everything that happens in the world, news and entertainment the Great British Bake off is just something I think is very much needed. It is just a nice mixture of comedy, food, inspiration, joy and heart warmingness (I know that isn’t a word) that I never tire of watching. The programme always encourages me to bake, gives me ideas and always puts me in awe of some of the amazing home bakers we have in this country.

A phenomenon

The show is a phenomenon, not only is one of the most watched shows over here every year, but it has since had many off spin off shows produced in other countries and in the UK. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have become national institutions because of the show and Mel & Sue have been taken in to hearts of millions.

The show needs these 4 people as they just make the show work. Every year the contestants are different, sometimes better, sometimes worse but that doesn’t always matter. The show is more about how Paul, Mary, Sue and Mel interact with the contestants, than the contestants themselves, although there have been many memorable contestants over the year.

The journey

The series progresses until they determine the champion and star baker of the series. The competition element though isn’t what is most important, which is why I like it. It’s not about everyone out to win at all costs; the winner doesn’t get a huge amount of money and a huge contract to do something. It is just more about the honour of being voted the best. Although this sounds cliché the show is about the journey we go on with all of them.

If you haven’t seen it before, where have you been? Hope you will all be tuning in at 8pm tonight on BBC One, for what I am sure will be another great series.

The Magic of the FA Cup

As many readers of this blog know, I am a massive football fan. The FA Cup is a cup competition in England that is one of the most historic in the world but it is a competition that has seen better days and I believe something needs to be done.

There has been lots of talk in the press over the last week of how to revamp the competition, with much talk about getting rid of replays but I don’t think that removing replays will do much to breathe new life in to the competition. To me it’s not the amount of games that needs to change, it is the perception of the competition as a whole.

Spin

The BBC and the FA over the last few years have been trying to do a lot of PR, branding and spin to increase the perceived value of the brand with slogans like “the magic of the cup” “Every game’s an adventure” and so on, but I don’t think it is working.

The reason I don’t think it is working is because of what I saw over the weekend. Whilst watching a couple of the live games on TV I saw a lot of empty seats. At the moment people don’t think it is worth paying to go to a cup game but if it was a league game they would. The FA needs to help clubs get people in to games, by offering discounts, working in the communities etc, just doing anything to fill the grounds, as if you see a full ground, it creates more of an atmosphere, looks better on TV and gets more people talking.

Changing the prize

The FA need to change the prize for the FA Cup. If they could negotiate for the winner of the cup to get a Champions League spot, then winning the cup is more valuable. They could make a rule that you could only make two changes from the starting 11 at your last league game to make sure the competition is played with most of the star players of the big teams. You could make it so that the two finalists, as a reward get to enter the competition in the 5th round the following season. More needs to be at stake for the competition to gain value.

To the big clubs winning the FA Cup its not seen as much of an accomplishment any more, as they are so focused on the Premier League and the Champions League, until this mindset changes the FA Cup will continue to be a much smaller competition than it used to be. If the FA invest in the competition they will be able to charge more for TV rights because at the moment I can only see the value of the TV rights only going in one direction while the Premier League and Champions League go the other way.

Debunking the ‘Cost of a child’ report

This week the yearly research (Cost of a Child) carried out for insurance company LV by the Centre of Economic and Business Research hit the headlines. The takeaway from the findings was that the cost to raise a child from birth to 21 was measured as £231,843, an increase of more than £2,500.

First thing you have to ask yourself about this report is – why are LV (a for profit company) investing time and money in to this if there isn’t a measureable gain to show to their shareholders? The answer I believe to this question, is partly that it is good publicity for LV and secondly because they provide a range of insurances, which people could be, more willing to buy based on the figures produced in this report. Both the publicity and a possible surge of people buying insurances wouldn’t happen without some big numbers, hence where we get £231,843 and why on the LV website they are saying this is more than the price of an average house, when no comparison was needed.

On the LV report on their website (https://www.lv.com/life-cover/cost-of-a-child/the-facts) they have listed percentages of vague, generic areas next to some cute graphic to depict that area. They have called it the facts yet it is filled with opinions.

The small print

One of the interesting things about the report is the small print at the bottom, as unlike how the press is reporting that the research came from the Centre of Economic and Business Research, there was another body involved:

Additional research was conducted by Opinium Research from 22 to 27 January 2016. The total sample size was 1,000 UK adults with children under the age of 18 and was conducted online. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

This additional research has been heavily used by LV and it means that out of the 8 key facts they list on their review of the report, 5 are opinion based and nowhere near representative of the UK as a whole.

Opinions

Out of the 8 opinions they chose to highlight as ‘key facts’ the last one floored the whole research for me as they listed – 49% of people didn’t have a plan in place for a sudden loss of income. When a quick look at the LV website shows they sell Income Protection insurance. This shows me that this document isn’t to help us; it is to encourage us to take out insurance, as having no plan in place for a loss of income has nothing to do with the cost of raising a child.

So if we go back to the start and take the number they are banding about of £231,843 that means they reckon on average a child costs £11,000 a year to raise (I am raising a child with no pay increase of a penny a year let alone £11,000). For the first year of our daughter’s life our actual costs are going to run around the £1,000 mark, far short of that yearly average.

Breaking it down

Looking closely at the numbers here are some breakdowns and numbers that amused me:

Education: £74,430 – Cost of schooling is taken out in our taxes so not a cost that we see and there is no guarantee every child will go to University. When they go to University there are things like loans, grants and working. If as a parent you want to contribute you can start up savings accounts now with good levels of interest and pay in a slow, constant and manageable way.

Childcare and Babysitting: £70,466 – For us this will cost us nothing and I know for lot of people it will too. This is one of the many reasons why I think having a parent at home instead of working, works during the pre-school years. As parents we sacrifice, we don’t both go out with out our baby. We will go out individually or take her with us; it’s not that difficult.

Clothing: £10,942 – So far for our daughter we have paid the grand total of £4 on clothes. The rest of her clothes have been hand-me-downs from friends or gifts. At her age she doesn’t care what she is dressed in or if it is new or if it is the most fashionable thing. Yes I daresay as she gets older and builds her own style that clothes will become more expensive, but nowhere near this £10,942 number bounded about.

I could go on and on but will stop there. I just wanted to show how the actual cost of raising a child can be so cheap. Research like this really annoys me, as it is why people buy in to the lie that raising a child is expensive. Before I knew of this report I wrote about the lie the media pumps out about the cost of children here:

https://adamsibley.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/why-have-so-many-people-bought-into-the-lie/

If you want to have children, have children you will find a way of making it affordable if you truly want to.

The streaming future of the BBC

For years BBC’s iPlayer has garnered high praise as one of the best streaming platforms out there. The iPlayer app has become so popular amongst media consumers, that a significant part of the audience for programmes it airs now comes from viewers on the app.

The iPlayer platform has evolved over the years and like other streaming services has dabbled with putting up online exclusive material on the app and in some cases putting episodes of shows on iPlayer before they air on TV. Whilst iPlayer has been growing and evolving, so has the rest of the market and these moves could be seen as ways to compete with the likes of Netflix, who have had great success with exclusive content and great success at cornering the ‘binge watching’ audience.

Another step in to the streaming world

The BBC took another step in to the streaming world this week, as BBC Three became an online only channel. This move has been known about for years and was done as part of a cost cutting exercise by the BBC, but as a media professional it is exciting to see how it works out for the channel, the programmes and the BBC.

If you don’t have a TV package that allows you to record or pause live TV you use things like iPlayer to watch TV, so I don’t see the audience dropping for this channel through it’s move to online. The one thing I worry about though is it’s potential to find a new audience, those that might have flicked by on the Freeview channels or seen a programme in the TV listings that may not find them now they are not there on Freeview.

Value for money

The TV License is always a big issue with the BBC. The BBC is currently funded through the compulsory TV License fee but if this push to online continues to grow, will there be more calls for it to be scrapped? If the BBC was to move everything to online only, then the £12 odd a month we currently have to pay, ma not be seen as good value, when you can get the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime for cheaper.

Yes the BBC is more than just TV, it’s radio, it’s websites etc. etc. etc. but price and value for money is important to many people and if you don’t use parts of the service you don’t want to pay for them.

Dare to be different

I think where the BBC can be different is to offer an app, which has all the best bits of the BBC in the same place. One experience where you can grab the best of TV, Radio, News, Sport etc. Imagine being able to get the best TV, music and readable news in one app. This would be something to me that would be worth the higher fee and I think is something the BBC should explore, to keep them relevant and ahead of the game. It is a critical time for the BBC right now and I think bravery is needed to navigate the changes in the media space.

A fury over Sports Personality of the Year

One of my favourite shows of the year is BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. It is always essential viewing over the Christmas period for me, as I am a huge sports fan. Watching this programme is one of my many traditions over Christmas and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

This year the show has grabbed more headlines than any other year, with the nomination of Tyson Fury for the main award. The show is less than a week away but it looks like that before it goes to air a petition to have Fury removed from the shortlist will have amassed more signatures than a petition against bombing of Syria!

Not shying away

The BBC have been playing up the fact about the petition on their own website, trying to make the Fury out campaign to look farcical and to keep the publicity embers very much alight as they milk this publicity for all its worth. As the saying goes there is no such thing, as bad publicity but BBC would normally shy away from bad publicity and controversy.

I think the panel who selected Tyson Fury had to know what the reaction would been to him being nominated as would the BBC, so part of me thinks BBC must have selected him and let it stand whilst having in their mind that this would generate a wave of publicity. If viewing ratings are up this Sunday then the BBC will know they have done the right thing, but only time will tell.

Plan

I hope that the BBC hasn’t done this with a plan and an agenda, as they should be above that. The BBC has such a strong brand and image that I think that something like this would only tarnish it. The BBC is held to higher standards than any other media firm and they know this, so unless it does gain a huge audience increase then publicity stunts are just not worth it. A media organization which is funded by the UK tax payer should always be wary and careful of every decision they make, as without the government and the public, they would not be able to exist on the scale they currently do.

The events of the last few weeks won’t stop me from watching the show but I don’t know if others will vote with their feet and not watch this year. I don’t think Tyson will win and I think more people will vote for other nominees to guarantee this but it has been interesting to see for the first time the comments and views of a nominee being brought in to question for if they should be nominated or not. If Tyson hadn’t recently become a world champion in boxing this would not be the issue that it is, but that’s the joy of timing and publicity.

TV and Parenting

In the UK this week the BBC have cause outrage with parents by extending the broadcasting hours of it’s children’s channel CBBC to 9pm. Parents, teachers and doctors have all had their say on the matter with many remarking about how it could damage children’s health and education.

I think the outrage is so interesting in the modern era of video on demand, streaming, Youtube, DVR etc. etc. etc. It is no so easy for parents and children to watch children’s TV at any hour of the day. I don’t think this helps children or parents but it is like Pandora’s Box has already been opened on this front.

Standards

I think if it had been anyone else but the BBC doing this, it wouldn’t be news. People seem to hold BBC to different and higher standards to anyone else. The BBC have fought back to the criticism by saying that people have the off button if they do not want to watch the extended broadcasting of the channel which I wholeheartedly agree with.

The problem with the BBC is that CBBC, CBeebies and all it’s programming has such a following and popularity that children everywhere adore their programming to the point of obsession. So the BBC are a victim of their own success in many ways which isn’t the worst place to be.

Making the right choices

The reason why this subject is so important to me is because I am a new parent and work in the TV industry. I want to make all the right choices for my child and I know everyday you have to make so many decisions and that there is so much pressure to make the right decisions.

I have no right to tell any parent what to do or how to parent but I think it is important that parents keep control and don’t look to others to make their life easier. Troubles and challenges are always going to be around each and everyone of us and how young people interact with media is a big one.

I see so many children with tablets in their hands unsupervised these days. The young generation seem to have control and seem to be exposed to so much media these days which I don’t think is healthy. I am not going to be one of these parents that doesn’t allow their children to watch any TV but I want to be a parent that uses it in the right way and to be involved in their engagement with TV.

Media is powerful but no one is more powerful than a parent.