NEW YORK — CBS Cable’s TNN has jumped into the pro wrestling arena by cutting a deal with Extreme Championship Wrestling to produce a weekly one-hour Friday night show.
TNN hopes to capitalize on the popularity of the two major pro wrestling outfits, the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling.
The WWF generates cable’s highest ratings on USA Network and the WCW scores strong ratings for TNT and TBS. In the fall, broadcast weblet UPN will premiere its own Thursday night WWF show.
The ECW, which produces six pay-per-view events each year, is known for pushing the envelope on violent content. But TNN and ECW execs said the shows will be toned down for basic cable.
“We’re not going to go off the deep end,” said David Hall, prexy of TNN. “The WWF has gone a little too far.”
TNN, which will premiere the ECW series on Aug. 27 at 8 p.m., is counting on the pro wrestling show to draw young men to the cabler. TNN will pair the ECW on Friday nights with “Rollerjam,” which has attracted a significantly younger audience to the web.
In an unusual three-year deal between TNN and ECW, the cabler will share in the revenue of all of ECW’s activities, including its TNN telecasts, PPV events, arena events, homevideo, magazines, CD compilations, e-commerce and merchandising.
ECW managing director Steve Karel said that TNN’s ECW shows will differ from both the WWF and WCW.
An integrated approach
“We’re going to return to the meat and potatoes of wrestling athleticism in the ring,” said Karel. “The storylines and characters will develop from the activities in the ring, not like the other guys, who focus on storylines that have nothing to do with the ring action.”
Although ECW is not well known nationally, Karel said that the WWF and WCW have been paying close attention to the league. Karel said that many of the wild stunts and sexual innuendoes featured in the WWF and WCW were lifted from ECW.
In addition, he said the two bigger wrestling organizations have hired away 30 of ECW’s performers in the last 18 months.
Paul Heyman is the owner of ECW parent HHG Corp. and exec producer of ECW.