New Japan Pro Wrestling is earning nearly as much revenue as it did in the 1990s, a period many think of as a more popular time for the promotion.
Since video and card game company Bushiroad acquired New Japan in 2012, the wrestling promotion's revenues have increased each year.
According to a report in Nikkan Sports in January (and translated by WONF4W board user mhagent007), New Japan is expected to surpass 4 billion yen (about $35 million USD) for its fiscal year of 2017 (August 2016 to July 2017).
Company revenues are now within the range of that of 1996 and 1997, when the promotion ran multiple shows per year at the Tokyo Dome and other stadium-sized venues and was carried by stars like Shinya Hashimoto, Keiji Muto and Masahiro Chono. This year New Japan could break its company record for annual revenue. Its history dates back to 1972 when it was founded by wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. It's not clear whether previous years' revenue totals would exceed 4 billion yen when adjusting for inflation. However the Japanese yen hasn't inflated much since the mid-1980s, unlike the U.S. dollar.
New Japan isn't a publicly-traded company like WWE, so less is publicly known about the finances of the company headed by Bushiroad president Takaaki Kidani. However Kidani said in an interview with Nikkei Style in September (translated by Chris Charlton) that New Japan had an operating income of 410 million yen ($3.6 million) for fiscal year 2016. That's a margin of 13%. It's not clear how these profits compare with that of the promotion's performance in the 1990s. To compare with WWE though, the worldwide industry leader in 2016 (January to December) had an operating income margin of 8%, although WWE reported a much higher $56 million in operating income for that period, about 15 times that of New Japan.
New Japan and WWE have different fiscal years and the quarters don't neatly align, but if we compare a more similar calendar period (July 2015 to June 2016) for WWE, Vince McMahon's company reported operating income of $40 million on revenue of $703 million, which means operating income was 6% of revenue. That still measures WWE's operating income at 11 times that of New Japan and 25 times more revenue.
An article on proresu-today.com detailed comparisons for New Japan's revenue against that of Japanese sumo wrestling industry, the combined Japanese wrestling business (including New Japan), and WWE.
While the leader of the Japanese wrestling industry, New Japan's revenue makes up 26% of that total industry, leaving other wrestling promotions like Dragon Gate, DDT, Big Japan, All Japan, NOAH, Stardom and many others to makeup the other 74%. The entire Japanese wrestling industry's 12.4 billion yen ($109 million) in revenue edges out the 10.8 billion yen ($95 million) the sumo wrestling industry made in FY2015.
According to data collected by @EvanDeadlySinsW on Twitter, despite losing major stars Shinsuke Nakamura and A.J. Styles at the start of 2016, New Japan's attendance is continuing to rise, along with other prominent Japanese promotions, with the exception of Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Total attendance for January through April for 2016, 2017. Continued trends include everyone doing varying degrees of better, except NOAH. pic.twitter.com/BwlBGYynKD— Evan (@EvanDeadlySinsW) May 14, 2017
Total attendance for January through April for 2016, 2017. Continued trends include everyone doing varying degrees of better, except NOAH. pic.twitter.com/BwlBGYynKD
— Evan (@EvanDeadlySinsW) May 14, 2017
New Japan's average attendance per event from January to April was 2,342. That's still well down from 1995 to 1997, according to Wrestling Observer Newsletter archives, when the company averaged 3,047, 3,674 and 3,280, respectively.
These numbers are skewed by whatever the Tokyo Dome attendance was each year on January 4: 52,500 in 1995, 54,000 in 1996, 52,500 in 1997 and 26,192 in 2017. However New Japan appears to have started reporting actual paid attendances beginning in May 2015 via its website, so the 26,192 may be a more truthful number than the Tokyo Dome attendances we have for shows in the 1990s. Including April in the 2017 average also lowers that average, but if we included April in 1997 and 1996, that would include an additional Tokyo Dome show, which would increase the averages for those earlier years even further.
WWE drew an average paid attendance of 6,000 to its U.S. and Canada live events between January and March this year, which included a high paid attendance probably somewhere around 30,000 to 45,000 for the Royal Rumble in San Antonio, Texas, in January.
The good health of New Japan's business Kidani said is a factor in the company's strategy to expand globally. The promotion will take the first steps toward that expansion on July 1 and 2 when it will hold two live events at the Long Beach Convention Center in Los Angeles, California. Tickets for both events sold out within minutes after they were put on sale. The venue is configured for about 2,300 for each night.
Following Wrestle Kingdom 11 on January 4 this year, it's estimated New Japan's streaming service NJPWWorld had about 60,000 subscribers, about 74% in Japan, 26% outside Japan. To compare, the WWE Network had 1.66 million paid subscribers after WrestleMania this year.
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