AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
Despite (or perhaps because of) the change in those running business affairs for ECW, five major markets lost their ECW TV...only weeks before the company's "Living Dangerously" PPV. These stations were WATL in Atlanta, Empire Sports Network in Buffalo, WUNI in Boston, WJYS in Chicago, and WNPA, the UPN affiliate in Pittsburgh.
In Atlanta, checks bounced for payment of ECW's airtime.
In Boston, the show had aired on a Univision affiliate WUNI. The company claimed that a rise in price from $500/weekly to $1,000 weekly was too much to pay.
In Buffalo, ECW had run for some time on Empire Sports Network, a Fox SportsNet affiliate, in an excellent time slot of 8:00 am EST on Saturday mornings. Viewers across the country could see the show via DirecTV and other satellite providers. The company states that the station wanted to use this slot for local programming. However, Empire Sports Network has a different version as you'll read below.
In Chicago, WJYS was what is referred to as a "must carry" on all of Chicago area cable systems. The station recently lost that status, and is now only available on only two-thirds of the areas's cable systems. The company states that it is looking for another station in the Chicago market.
In Pittsburgh, the company has stated that WNPA wanted to move them to an earlier time slot and charge them more money for it.
Now, if a conscious business decision by ECW to scale back costs for purchase of TV time, this would be understandable...if it weren't two weeks before a PPV. But read the following from the head of STRICTLY ECW on their message board:
"So far, the Atlanta affiliate, and Empire [Sports Network], have stated that Stonecutter Media (ECW's syndicator) 'pulled' the show, and not the stations themselves. We have yet to find out about Boston and Pittsburgh. Now, we have two stations essentially giving us the same story.
On the other hand, an high-ranking ECW source told me, on Sunday night, that ECW was working on the situation. NO, the source told me that they we're going to get 'new stations', and that things were 'going to be better'.... Honestly, I cannot see ECW purposely screwing with their TV product....especially so close to a PPV. But this story, so far, is very strange."
Indeed, the story is very strange. Initially, the company asked fans (through the ECW website) to contact the stations and request that the shows be returned to air with payment on a "barter" basis. Then, when even STRICTLY ECW found that what had happened was that ECW had created this situation through its own actions, suddenly the tone changed. Then, suddenly the new story was that "they were finding new stations".
OK...fine. Except for one problem pointed out by even STRICTLY ECW. It's two weeks before ECW's Living Dangerously PPV. Does anyone actually believe the company would take these actions willingly, as a business decision, IMMEDIATELY BEFORE a PPV?
Fans in Boston who lost their TV, then found out this week that the mid-April ECW tour is being cancelled (due to the TV situation), are furious. Some have even said that they'll come to the ECW Living Dangerously PPV with signs expressing their feelings. That'll look good on PPV.
It seems like the spin doctoring isn't working this time. These fans feel used and lied to by the company. A clear explanation to fans of the reasons why a decision was made would have gone a long way toward dealing with the fact that these fans who kept hearing the ads that run on ECW TV bragging about "having no corporate sponsors" bought into the myth, and now feel used by the company.
It's true that smart business decisions are essential in changing the company from a personality cult to a real, honest-to-God wrestling COMPANY. Many fans have lived in the fantasy world of "getting their ECW" so long, without thoughts as to how the TV got paid for; and the fact that shows run in small arenas don't bring in the dollars needed to pay for expensive TV.
But I have to wonder what is going on in this particular situation. As I said earlier, a decision to cut off five major company markets before a PPV, including a station aired nationally via satellite simply doesn't make business sense to me.
One has to wonder what TRULY is going on here. Despite all the positive feelings that came with Buena Vista's involvement in PPV promotion and distribution, as well as the loan that ECW obtained to deal with outstanding obligations....this has to disturb fans of the company.
Seems like ECW is truly "living dangerously"...just not quite in the way they had in mind.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)