Turner’s Kellner KOs wrestling series

Two cablecasts generate half the aud of WWF's 'Raw Is War'

NEW YORK — Jamie Kellner, in one of his first decisions as chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting, has scrapped the weekly primetime wrestling series “WCW Nitro” on TNT and “WCW Thunder” on TBS.

A Turner spokesman said the decision wasn’t too difficult, as the two weekly World Championship Wrestling two-hour cablecasts generate less than half the audience of the World Wrestling Federation’s “Raw Is War” Monday-night slamfest on TNN.

In addition, so many advertisers refuse to buy time on wrestling shows that they don’t deliver ad revenues commensurate with the young male audience the two series pull in every week.

Wrestling also clashes with the upscale adult audience that TBS and TNT are aggressively seeking to attract with such programming as fresh theatrical movies, original series like TBS’ “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” and TNT’s “Bull” and telepics.

TBS is also trying to corner the basic-cable market for sitcom reruns, premiering “Seinfeld” and “Friends” this fall, followed in subsequent years by series like The Drew Carey Show” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

The demise of WCW wrestling on Turner could kill the deal the grappling company had worked out two months ago with Fusient Media Ventures. Fusient had agreed to buy a majority stake in the WCW for about $75 million. But one of the deal’s stipulations was that Turner would continue running the two weekly series.

The Turner spokesman said other buyers are waiting in line, including the WWF, if Fusient drops out. No deal is likely to happen, however, until another cable network steps up to schedule the two weekly series.

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