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Exec exits the ring

WCW prexy Bischoff out as Busch boosted

One of cable’s top-rated programming staples is getting a shakeup as World Championship Wrestling president Eric Bischoff has been relieved of his day-to-day duties at the Turner-owned grappling org.WCW this year has seen a sharp decline in TV ratings and PPV buyrates, while those of arch-rival WWF skyrocketed.

Bill Busch has now been upped to exec VP of WCW and will immediately assume complete oversight of the day-to-day business and creative operations.

Rockers and a hard place

Although the WCW program “Nitro” on TNT still pulls between a 3 and 4 rating as the org’s star program, insiders indicated that the ratings didn’t justify the amount of money the company was spending — such as booking rock groups like Kiss and Megadeth to perform on the show. WCW kept losing eyeballs to WWF on the USA Network, which has lately pulled a 6 or 7 rating.

Busch has served as VP of strategic planning at WCW for seven years and had been known as a finance specialist within the organization who can bring projects under budget. With Busch at the helm, other changes in the organizational structure are expected to be announced this year.

Before this year, WCW had soared under Bischoff, including a year-long undefeated Monday-night ratings streak in cable two years ago, as “Nitro” regularly broke a 5.0 rating.

Ratings jump

Bischoff brought in one-time WWF pillars such as Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as instant ratings boosters. But success was fleeting for the grappling federation, as “Nitro” now pulls in half as many viewers as its rival on Monday nights. WCW program “Thunder” on sister network TBS has suffered declines as well.

Although Bischoff will officially stay a part of Turner sports in an unnamed capacity, sources said that Bischoff had been considering a move west from Atlanta to explore television and film projects.

He took producer credits recently for last year’s indie pic “The Real Reason (Men Commit Crimes)” and the 1997 TNT telepic “Assault on Devil’s Island.”