Ring of Honor (ROH) wrestling, the nine-year-old franchise owned by ticket broker Cary Silkin, has been sold to Sinclair Broadcasting Group for an undisclosed amount.
Sinclair owns several Fox, CW and MYTV television affiliates, with penetration into 22 percent of U.S. households, and the company said it plans to make ROH a staple of its original weekly programing on its 58 stations in 35 U.S. markets.
“Television and professional wrestling have a long history of successful partnerships and driving viewership,” Steve Marks, chief operating officer of Sinclair’s Television Group, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the broadcast networks have not protected that relationship, allowing professional wrestling to migrate to cable network distribution. We believe that the powerful promotional platform that our TV stations provide, coupled with our 22 percent coverage of the U.S. TV households, will allow ROH to achieve name brand recognition and grow its share of the wrestling market.”
ROH is the nation’s third-largest wrestling promotion — behind the WWE and TNA franchises — and it served as the backdrop for the Academy Award-nominated movie “The Wrestler.”
The promotion recently had a television contract with HDNet, and it produces more than two-dozen matches per year, primarily at smaller venues in major cities. Under Silkin, who owns the ticket resale site RaveTix, ROH regularly sold out its shows, and the company grew into an international draw, staging bouts in the UK and Asia, among other overseas locales.
Silkin told TicketNews that he’s very proud of what ROH has accomplished over the years, having started with a few East Coast shows to now being the third-largest wrestling promotion.
“And, TNA is bigger than us primarily because of the Spike TV deal. When you compare the live shows, we drew similar attendance numbers,” Silkin said.
ROH was not actively pursuing a sale, Silkin said, but the company “was exploring various options.” With the sale, he said he will become more involved in his successful ticket broker business by default, because he will have “less pressure business-wise”; he plans to stay with ROH in an advisory role, and the promotion will be run by chief operating officer Joe Koff.
“We always prided ourselves on being something real wrestling fans, the connoisseurs, could appreciate, because we make it a sport as opposed to a circus. I always tell people that we’re 95 percent action, 5 percent talk. The other promotions could be 70 percent talk and 30 percent action,” Silkin said.
The first ROH shows on Sinclair’s stations will debut in September.
“Longer-term, we can envision syndicating ROH wrestling to broadcasters in markets where Sinclair does not have a presence, and even internationally,” Marks added. “The acquisition also means less syndicated product that we will be required to purchase, and since we own the franchise, we control how many times, which dayparts and on which affiliates we want to air the matches without having the limitation on the number of runs or license fee costs.”
In addition to the television shows, Sinclair plans a multiple media approach to leverage ROH content through advertising and sponsorship opportunities, DVD and merchandising sales (expanding on what ROH does already), mobile phones and the internet.
“We have been waiting and working for this opportunity for quite some time. Of our nine years in business, there has been no better roster of wrestlers than this one to expose the ROH product to the masses,” Silkin said in a statement. “With Sinclair’s resources and many avenues of distribution, we believe many new fans will be as captivated as those who have followed Ring of Honor over the years.”