WWF kills USA pact; Viacom may step in

'Raw' could be cancelled on cabler, TNN next in line

The bidding war for the rights to Rock, Y2J and Chyna looks to heat up now that the World Wrestling Federation has served notice it intends to cancel its contract with the USA Network for its top-rated shows.

Contracts for four hours of programming on the USA Network, including “Monday Night Raw,” will end come September unless the cabler and the WWF are able to work out a deal. USA retains a right of first refusal for the programming blocks but Viacom’s overwhelming interest, affiliation with broadcast net CBS and bigger pocketbook may make that moot.

A source at the WWF said that the negotiations with both USA and Fox are still under way. Fox’s interest waned once the XFL football rights were introduced to the bargaining table.

The WWF is looking for a broadcast and cable outlet to air both wrestling and its new XFL football league, and Viacom is in the driver’s seat to attain the pair, with “Smackdown” likely to stay on UPN and “Raw” moving to TNN, which has been actively developing programming to shake off a country-style image and is rumored to relaunch come September, especially if the WWF lands at the cabler.