In an effort to capitalize on the growing popularity of
professional wrestling, DirecTv Inc. will offer pay-per-view coverage of backstage events
during World Championship Wrestling's May 18 Nitro weekly cable show on Turner
But cable-PPV executives, burdened with limited channel
capacity, passed on the concept, which would run the Nitro show simultaneously on
Viewers purchasing the $4.99 event will see TNT's live Nitro
telecast, along with behind-the-scenes coverage not seen on the cable show, said Jay
Hassman, director of PPV for WCW. The extra coverage will take place during commercial
breaks on TNT, although DirecTv will acknowledge the network's sponsors during TNT's ad
Along with the backstage coverage, DirecTv will also show
any matches that take place after the TNT broadcast has signed off.
"We are delighted to work with WCW to bring the fans a
first look at what really takes place behind the closed doors of professional
wrestling," said Richard Goldberg, vice president of programming acquisition for
DirecTv, in a prepared statement. "Once again, DirecTv is offering subscribers
compelling and diverse programming that is not available anywhere else."
Hassman said the May 18 event is the first of four PPV
shows that DirecTv will offer -- each appearing one day after the WCW's traditional
monthly PPV event. Hassman would not project how well the event will perform, but he did
say that there is much interest among wrestling fans to see behind-the-scenes action.
Neither the WCW nor DirecTv has to do much promotion for the Nitro show: With a 4.7
average Nielsen Media Research rating, it's one of the most heavily viewed shows on cable.
"Our fans have always told us that they've always
wondered what happens outside of the normally televised parts of the show," Hassman
said. "This will provide fans with an opportunity to go behind the scenes, where no
other wrestling program has gone."
But as far as cable, at least one PPV distributor has taken
a pass. With the show already available on TNT, Viewer's Choice said it will not duplicate
the signal, even though the PPV version will have additional material.
"They have over 200 channels to carry both feeds; it's
one of the advantages that DirecTv has with so much channel capacity," said Joe
Boyle, vice president of corporate communications for Viewer's Choice.
Representatives from Request Television could not be
reached for comment at press time.
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