Viewer's Choice and cable operators hope last week's
distribution deal between Extreme Championship Wrestling and The Nashville Network will
translate into higher buy-rates for the renegade wrestling organization's pay-per-view
For the first time, ECW will receive weekly exposure from a
national basic-cable network after reaching a three-year distribution agreement with TNN.
The network will distribute a one-hour weekly series on
Friday nights beginning Aug. 27, network executives said.
Prior to the deal, ECW shows were distributed on a
syndicated basis in about 40 mostly secondary TV markets.
Much like its more successful competitors -- the World
Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling -- ECW will now be able to develop a
much greater fan base, while leveraging cross-promotional opportunities to help sell its
PPV events through its basic-cable shows.
The company currently averages around 70,000 to 75,000 buys
for its six PPV events per year. But that number pales in comparison with average
six-figure buy numbers for WCW's and the WWF's monthly PPV events.
"Unequivocally, it will help our PPV shows," ECW
managing director Steve Karel said. "The deal give us our first true marketing and
distribution platform. We clear the same number of [PPV households] as [the WWF and WCW],
but we don't have a TV presence in many of the areas where PPV service is provided."
Viewer's Choice vice president of corporate communications
Joe Boyle said the WWF Raw and WWFWar Zone shows on USA Network and WCW
Monday Night Nitro on Turner Network Television have been great tools to help build
excitement, awareness and anticipation for the organizations' PPV shows.
"[The TNN/ECW series] will create exposure that didn't
exist before and serve as a platform to cross-promote PPV," he said.
Operator reaction was just as positive. "It will
definitely help the exposure of the ECW, but I think it will be a slow growth," Cable
One of Fargo, N.D., marketing assistant Eric Lardy said. He added that ECW events generate
about one-third of the buys that WCW and WWF events pull in the system.
"Nevertheless, this is what they needed to get
additional revenue generated from their PPV events," Lardy said.
But ECW will not pocket much of any PPV-revenue upside. As
part of the deal, the network will share in all PPV revenue above an unspecified buy-rate,
the network said.
TNN will also receive a significant portion of revenue from
other ECW-related activities, including arena events, home video, magazines, compact disc
compilations, e-commerce via the organization's Web site (www.ecwwrestling.com) and
With the deal, TNN also carves its own piece of the
ratings-rich wrestling genre. Wrestling shows on USA and TNT consistently rank among the
highest-rated programs on cable. In May, USA set a cable-ratings record with an 8.1
Nielsen Media Research rating for its WWF Raw and WWF War Zone shows.
TNN president David Hall believes its ECW shows can
eventually ramp up to a 1 rating or better. And combined with its RollerJam
roller-derby series and its Championship Rodeo and Motor Madness shows, Hall
feels that TNN will continue to attract the desired teen and young-male demographic.
"Wrestling makes extremely popular television among
teens and young-male viewers but you have to look at this as a building
process," Hall said. "With wrestling, we can greatly expand the teen and
young-male audience that is already attracted to our Friday-night sports-based
But unlike ECW's often violent and sexually titillating PPV
events, TNN's series will be more focused on the athleticism of the wrestlers. TNN's ECW
shows will carry a "PG-TV-14" rating.
"We're going to promote the athleticism of the
wrestlers, rather than all of the [activities] that often happen outside of the
ring," Hall said.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.