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/22 September 2000

ECW on TNN by E.C. Ostermeyer




Making the Wrong Choice

Boy, talk about timing!

Not more that 45 minutes after I posted this week's "Mind Squeezins" article, the news broke that "ECW on TNN" was history.
Just like that!

In a terse, one line statement, TNN spokesman David Schwarz stated that "Our agreement with ECW expired, and we were unable to come to terms with an extension."

This unfortunate turn of events occurred in spite of the WWF waiving their exclusivity clause with TNN, and allowing ECW to remain on TNN, at least through December 31st, while a new agreement was to be hammered out. However, with the writing on the wall visible to all parties as early as September 25th , ECW's Paul Heyman was saying that he didn't expect this Friday's "ECW on TNN" show to air.

It's as if, given the choice of coming to an agreement where everybody wins, the parties involved pig-headedly chose the one option where everybody loses.

As might be expected, neither ECW nor TNN had any intention of continuing the relationship.
As a condition of the contract extension, TNN was demanding a percentage of the PPV revenues they claimed were due to them due to network promotion.
Heyman and Co. replied that TNN didn't live up to their contractual obligations, and, in addition, denied ECW access to additional promotional and advertising venues, and therefore, wasn't ponying up diddly.
TNN countered that ECW hadn't delivered the ratings that they promised.
ECW replied that, because of the CBS/Viacom merger, (which occurred one week after "ECW on TNN" went on the air), the promised promotion campaign never materialized. The Viacom merger also brought the number one cable show, "WWF Raw", to TNN from their long-time home over on USA Network, and that's where TNN was putting the bulk of their advertising dollars.
Thus, how could the "ECW on TNN" ratings even BE there if nobody knew when or where the show was on?
Heyman claimed that the playing field was "stacked against us in a fashion that made it impossible for any show to deliver any number under the circumstances. Yet, we blew away everything else they had, until they smartly built...around Raw this Monday night. In one weekend, Raw had more promotion from the TNN/CBS/Viacom conglomerate than we've had in a whole year."
Heyman concluded his statement with "They screwed us. It's clear to me. It's obvious, and it's something that they're going to have to deal with. Anyone at that network or that corporation that wants the media, their shareholders, or themselves to think we (ECW) are just spinning our wheels and making outlandish claims is practicing the art of mental masturbation."

As usual, there is talk of lawsuits galore out of this whole mess. ECW is claiming "contractual noncompliance" on the part of TNN/CBS. TNN wants the monies owed them as their share for promoting the ECW PPV's.

So who are the losers in this whole sad tale of treachery and greed?

ECW loses big with the loss of their national TV exposure, and any means to effectively promote their product to a national audience. You don't really think that their PPV ads on the "TV Guide Channel" are going to have the same box-office impact that advertising full-bore on a national TV network would have, do you? Additionally,
the possible move of ECW to the USA Network is looking increasingly unlikely.
The new USA Network president, Barry Diller, is of the opinion that pro-wrestling is a fad whose time is past. Additionally, he's finally gotten the PTC (Parents TV Council) off USA's back. Diller is in no mood to have them back marching around his desk with bullhorns because he decided to sign, according to PTC, "an even crasser spectacle than the WWF!" Nope, that door's closed to ECW.
And, if Paul Heyman thought he had problems meeting a payroll before, he's got 'em in spades now. Look for the ECW talent roster to erode as his wrestlers, formerly the most loyal in the business, begin to look elsewhere in order to feed their families.

WWF loses the potential ratings gold-mine that would have occurred in placing "ECW on TNN" in the Monday 8 AM timeslot. This would have virtually guaranteed Raw a big ratings boost, in addition to all the possible cross-programming, exchange of talent, and coordinated story arcs between the two feds. (True, ECW would have been the "junior partner", but Heyman wasn't (and now, isn't) in much of a position to argue the fact, now was he?)
It also would have put paid to the "Monday Night Ratings Wars" for good and all, and leave "ABC's Monday Night Football" as Vince McMahon's only serious competition.

TNN is in the same boat as the WWF, since losing the possible increase in ratings also means losing the potential advertising revenue, plus any of the possible realized profits from ECW PPV's that were (hopefully) to receive proper advertisement and promotion by TNN.

And finally you, the fans, are the biggest losers. Barring a sudden migration of ECW talent, or Paul Heyman pulling a financial rabbit out of his hat, last Friday night at 9PM was the last time many of you will ever see the likes of Rob Van Dam, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Kid Kash, Rhino, Mikey Whipwreck, Justin Credible, or any of the other members of Paul Heyman's band of professionals. True "ECW Hardcore TV" will continue to sputter along in syndication, but even it's impact will be seriously impaired with the loss of exposure that "ECW on TNN" once afforded it.

The only winners out of this whole mess are, first and foremost, the lawyers. If lawsuits do get filed, CBS/Viacom's deeper pockets virtually guarantee that they will be the "winner," since they could out-wait Paul Heyman right into the poorhouse.
And I don't think Heyman's noted attorney, Stephen R. Stern, is working pro bono, either.

The other winner is, curiously, WCW. With the potential demise of ECW in the offing, whoever will currently own WCW at that time of the "funeral" will have an opportunity to pick up some great talent at bargain prices. Additionally, WCW would again be faced with only one opponent in the Monday Night Ratings Wars, instead of two.

And so, barring that previously stated Paul Heyman magic trick, it is truly a bleak day for the fans of ECW.

Especially for yours truly, since this is the second wrestling show I've recapped that's gone down the crapper. (My first was "WCW Saturday Night.") And this time, I didn't even get a chance to say good-bye.

CRZ noticed this, and inferred that I might be possessed of the "Grim Reaper's Touch", whereby every show I recap goes belly-up after a few months.
Rather than take this as a curse, I've decided to see if I can make a few bucks off it.
If any of you good folks out there want a particular TV show off the air, simply send your requests to me, care of this website, along with a certified check for $1000 for each half hour of the show's air-time. Shows running longer than two hours would be governed by a sliding price scale. I get writer's cramp.
I make no guarantees, but simply stand on my past accomplishments in this area. Batting .750's a good average, wouldn't you say?

And some shows I'd do for free.
Anything with Martha Stewart or Roger Smith in it, for instance.

E.C. Ostermeyer
[slash] wrestling

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