Pay-per-view bothers viewers. I embrace it vigorously. With proper money management and fiscal responsibility, discriminating sports-minded investors will find pay-per-view to be as sound a financial investment as any U.S. government-backed security—and much more lucrative.
Take, for instance, the Feb. 28 Clash of the Legends, a one-on-one basketball exhibition between Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It will cost me nothing. Why? I don't want to see it, so I won't pay for it. Thus I will save myself $19.95. Then take the Feb. 29 World Championship Wrestling SuperBrawl II. I don't want to see it, so I won't pay for it, cither. Thus I will save myself $24.95.
Just like that, I'm up 45 bucks in two days, tax-free and with no sales charge. What a wonderful bargain!
Everything used to be see-for-free on TV. Now more and more is pay-per-view. People grumble about the impending reality. But pay-per-view simply represents an American tradition—freedom of choice. Granted, not everyone gets that choice, because you must have I) access to cable and 2) access to money. But that is a price Americans have chosen to pay in order to have a market economy.
For example, whether Jerry Buss decides he wants all Los Angeles Laker games to be on free TV or wants to charge $9.95 for some TV games or wants no Laker games to be available on TV is his call. It should be—it's his business, after all.
This notion that American sports fans somehow have a constitutional right to watch for free, say, the baseball playoffs or NFL games is absurd. I've checked the Bill of Rights. It doesn't guarantee against "unreasonable search and seizure of the Super Bowl."
(Actually, Congress, home of pay-per-vote, will most likely threaten legislative reprisals against baseball and the NFL if more of their games move off free TV. Congressmen love this issue. To them, it's like shooting fish in a pork barrel. Speaking in favor of preserving games on free TV is as politically safe as defending motherhood.)
For all the recent hullabaloo over pay-per-view, the concept is nothing new. The original pay-per-view, I believe, is the airport TV—20 minutes for a quarter—found in waiting areas. Heck, I remember how delighted I was once at LaGuardia Airport to discover that I could watch both Benson and Bosom Buddies for under a buck. What I don't like is the big lettering on the back of those sets that says TV. What else could they be, microwave ovens? I guess they assume that if you desperately seek to watch television in an airport, you must have the IQ of a baggage carousel.
Pay-per-view simply follows the same premise as all other businesses: If you want something, you pay for it; if you don't want it, you don't pay. For Nikes, it's pay-per-shoe. For Michelobs, it's pay-per-brew. For a cheap date, it's pay-per-moo goo gai pan. (Sorry, my word processor wrote that, not me.)
This is America, after all—you pay as you go. Speaking of which, I've noticed that some of you are browsing through SPORTS ILLUSTRATED at newsstands without buying it. You're taking money out of my pocket, pal. Hell, the magazine is only $2.95.