If everybody can get out of the wrestling bubble that most of us live in, try to look at Turner Network Programming from an outsider’s, channel-surfing perspective. TNT and TBS are lousy networks. TBS had the Braves, and that’s about it. Before The Closer started, TNT basically had nothing besides syndicated shows and Friday night spectaculars like “Die Hard”, 8 pm to 10 pm, and 10 pm to 12. Outside of pro wrestling, did anyone reading this watch ANYTHING on TNT? They ended up having the NBA, but I’ll get to that later.
So basically you have network executives that are paying for syndicated shows and producing no original programming. I don’t know their names, but the heirarchy of the Turner networks started with an indifferent billionaire, Ted Turner, five guys beneath him (one of which was Brad Seagal) and then Eric Bischoff. This is the most important thing that everyone needs to know: those five guys NEVER wanted wrestling on TNT. Period. They never liked it. They were content with sticking wrestling on Saturday night at 6 o’clock, basically out of the way of everything. Think about that. Here’s a product who’s target market is the 18-34 year old demographic, and it’s stuck in a spot where nobody really watches, AND IT STILL DID DECENT NUMBERS!
So Bischoff somehow gets a face to face with Ted Turner and convinces him that to compete with Vince he needs a live show head to head. So Ted Turner, with optimistic indifference, and because he liked rasslin’, syas “Sure.” Hence, the start of The Monday Night Wars.
Now you’ve got to understand that through the growth of WCW over the next years, there really wasn’t alot of support given to the company by those five guys that never wanted it to begin with. The company was getting good ratings and living off the PPV and ad revenue. You would think we would have been given an art department and more people in marketing, right? Nope. No art department and a marketing department that consisted of TWO, count ’em, TWO people. Remember, they didn’t want rasslin’ on their network. So why bother helping it? Thunder then came along and WCW was growing; the highest rated show on cable tv. Bottom line, you have network executives who’s expertise were buying Law and Order for a million bucks an episode and sticking it on tv 60 times a day.
That’s all these guys knew. They weren’t creative, and they basically didn’t know how to help in the production of a highly rated live show. Seriously, if they would have given Bischoff the proper resources, they could have turned it into the wrestling network. They could have raided the WWF and gotten their top production guys and poured some money into it and made it work. At the time, wrestlings numbers on cable were as good as the NFL’s. *Sigh*, but they didn’t like wrestling. What a bunch of absolute imbeciles.
So they do eventually raid the WWE and got the writers, Russo and Ferrara. During this time WWE had started to beat us with The Attitude era, but we still did good numbers. WCW had alot of high level contracts and was still relying on ppv and ad revenue. Business was dropping, but it wasn’t like they couldn’t have turned it around. They started CUTTING costs, instead of putting more money in to compete.
The problem with Russo and Ferrara wasn’t that they couldn’t write good tv; it’s that they couldn’t write tv without the WWE’s production machine behind them. Russo had alot of great ideas, but they cost money. WCW wasn’t willing to spend it. Why? because the executives STILL didn’t want wrestling on their network.
Everyone can point to David Arquette and whatever you think from a booking standpoint as to what killed WCW, but none of it means two shits in the big picture. WCW was sytematically being shoved off the network. I know. I would sit in booking meetings and we would have 4 or 5 calls to our boss, Brad Seagal, that were never returned. I would be there in production meetings on show day when we’re learning for the first time, after the show has been written, that costs had been cut, Hugh Morris had no pyro and they couldn’t afford a limo for someone and had a bus instead.
The best part was that TNT was losing its ass on the NBA during this time. Put this in perspective. I’m not exactly sure of the numbers, but I believe that WCW lost 60 million bucks it’s final year. The NBA on TNT lost 120 million in only six months, AND IT DREW HALF THE RATING OF WRESTLING! How in God’s name can that show be allowed to stay on the air, but wrestling can’t?
That should pretty much sum the whole thing up. If you’ve read what I’ve written here and understood it you would know that the people who killed WCW have never been seen by any of you before and you’ve probably never heard their names. But they did it. They let one of the highest rated shows on cable tv disappear, and consequently, the networks’s ratings declined.
Here’s the capper, Time Warner came along and they didn’t want to spend the money to revitalize wrestling either. Time Warner – another well-managed corporation. Look and see how their stock price did over the years. Not surprising. So Time Warner decides to sell a company with a book value, I believe, of 30 million (not sure if that is accurate) for 2 millin dollars. Brilliant. The best part is, if this is indeed true – and I’ve heard it is from sources – that the ppv revenues were back ended three months or so. So after Vince got WCW, three months later he got their ppv revenue. Vince Mcmahon bought WCW with their own money!
It’s been awhile since I’ve divulged in this topic, so I’m not 100% sure of my accuracy, but hopefully you understand the crux of what I’m saying: that the reason WCW died was because of poor executive network management. Period!