AS I SEE IT - 3/21/2001
More than many people, I can identify with what has been happening with WCW in
the last week. Like everyone, of course, I've read the stories about what has happened to
WCW. But unlike many of you, my mind goes back to just over two months in my own life.
What happened two months ago to me puts the WCW situation in a different perspective for
me than it might have otherwise.
I worked for the nationwide Computer Learning Center proprietary school chain. The last six to eight weeks had involved some questions about the company fighting with the US Department of Education, but nothing more than we'd heard on and off for the better part of the last year I worked there. But suddenly, in mid-January, we got the word that the company would have to be sold to allow the payment of a judgment/fine against the company by the Department of Education.
CLC had a proposed buyer, an owner of one national and one regional chain of similar schools who looked like our knight on a white horse.
On Friday, January 19, we sat in the school director's office and waited for the news on a telephone conference call. The news was that it seemed that while the deal wasn't done yet, it seemed like we would be OK. The people in the CLC corporate office sounded very, very hopeful. We went to a nearby bar, and did what people usually do in that sort of situation.
Fast forward, two days later, just after midnight. I'd watched the Royal Rumble, and a little of the replay, and had just fallen asleep; when I got a call from my supervisor, saying that the buyer had pulled out because the Department of Education had refused to release financial aid restrictions they'd placed on the ownership of CLC for the new buyers.
CLC was done. Just like that.
Just like that, a nationally known company that had been around for 30 years was out of business.
So it is with WCW...at least for now.
We've all read, ad nauseum, the endless stories on the Fusient-WCW negotiations.
Well, much like the midnight phone call I received 2 months ago, WCW employees received one (figuratively) this week, when AOL/Time Warner television head Jamie Kellner made the decision to cease televised wrestling on TBS and TNT as of March 26. It's been stated that Kellner has no intention of bringing back WCW on any of the AOL/Time Warner stations for the foreseeable future. Which means, in English, Nitro on TNT and Thunder on TBS have been cancelled as of next Monday.
The spokesman said the programming "no longer matches the high-income demographic TBS and TNT are targeting."
Accordingly, the future for WCW deal is, at best, on hold. While there had been some word that Fusient and AOL/Time Warner were still talking, that appears to have ended. There are, however, other potential buyers that are interested; including (again) the WWF. But you have to wonder how sellable WCW is without national TV clearance (unless you're the WWF).
But in a worst case scenario, there will be a lot of available wrestlers and office personnel, and the wrestling business as a whole will suffer.
I feel bad for the people like Gary Juster, Jeremy Borash, Bob Ryder and others within WCW with whom I'm familiar.
I met Gary Juster through a friend years back. He always seemed to be a class act and was always friendly and helpful. I hope Gary lands on his feet quickly.
Jeremy Borash, who has worked on the WCW Live online show and other areas, was kind enough to send me thanks for the articles I'd written shortly after the death of Brian Hildebrand.
As for Bob Ryder, no matter what problems PWBTS and I have had over the years with him, and what I've said regarding them (none of which I apologize for); I don't wish this sort of experience on anyone, including him.
But as for the comments of Jamie Kellner that have created this situation, I don't have any such sympathy.
Because it's a "here we go again" situation. Wrestling fans are again apparently being taken by corporate America as being the no more than the stereotype that middle America viewed wrestling fans as being for years...the proverbial "bad demographic" of low-income trailer trash.
Even when the falsehood of such remarks is pointed out, we're told "Why are you getting so excited? It's just wrestling."
All of us who write about wrestling online or "insider newsletters", including myself, have talked for years about the failings of WCW and its management under the Turner regime.
But this is something different. Kellner's judgment is another attack on all of us as wrestling fans. We're getting one more choice of entertainment removed by decisions of corporate executives who have or no actual idea what people find to be entertaining.
I think we all need to let America Online, the new owners of TBS and TNT, and the Time-Warner family, know what we think of comments like that. Further, as wrestling fans, I think we all need to consider whether or not we want to give AOL/Time-Warner and their products and services our hard-earned dollars now that they've made this choice.
Turner Broadcasting Systems would not have existed for AOL and Time-Warner to purchase to begin with, were not for the Saturday night airings of Georgia Championship Wrestling back in 1970 locally on WTCG (which became WTBS). The TV went national in 1976, when Turner went on satellite. Ted Turner has acknowledged as much; that at one point, the only things that got ratings on his station were the Atlanta Braves, and Georgia (later World) Championship Wrestling.
From those humble beginnings came the Turner corporate empire, which includes: TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Cable News Network, CNN Headline News, Cartoon Network Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks Atlanta Thrashers, Turner Classic Movies, The Goodwill Games, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies, TCM Europe, Cartoon Network Europe, TNT Latin America, Cartoon Network Latin America, TCM & Cartoon Network/Asia Pacific, Cartoon Network Japan, CETV, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Thrashers, The Goodwill Games, allpolitics.com, CNNfyi.com, CNN International, CNNfn, CNN/Sports Illustrated, CNN en Espaņol, CNNSI.com, CNN Airport Network, myCNN.com, CNNRadio, CNNBrasil.com, CNNRadio Noticias, CNN.co.jp, CNN Newsource, CNN.com Europe, CNN.de, CNN.dk, CNNenEspanol.com, CNN+, CNNItalia.it, CNN Turk, CNN Norge, and CNN Sverige.
Without the 2 hour TV wrestling show that started out of that old TV studio on Techwood, none of that would have happened.
Now Jamie Kellner wants to take off the air the descendants of that show, because it doesn't meet some sort of stereotypical image of highbrow entertainment. As a result, WCW as we know it will be no more as of March 26th.
It's time to let them Kellner and friends know what you think of their decision. Even if you never watched WCW, even if you made fun of the nonsensical (or non-existent) storylines, or the never-ending politics...as a wrestling fan, you need to speak up.
Other Time-Warner staff are talking the same company line. Time-Warner spokesman Jim Weiss regarding the impending shutdown of WCW in Tuesday's Pro Wrestling Torch:
" '...There are two points I want to make,' Weiss said. 'WCW is going to be sold. We have options. The other point is that weve decided professional wrestling in its current incarnation just isnt appropriate for the high-scale, up-scale brand that we have built on TNT and TBS Superstation. Were no longer interested in carrying the product.'
Weiss declined to answer whether an increase in ratings would make WCW up-scale enough to have remained on TBS and TNT. He also declined to comment on whether a late WWF bid caused the Fusient deal to unravel.
'WCW is not a core business for Turner broadcasting,' Weiss said. 'We own the greatest film library in the world. Were a content-driven company. We have demands based around the copyrights we own. Were upgrading some of the strongest cable networks in existence. WCW is just not a core business.'
Weiss confirmed WCW will not be holding its May 6 pay-per-view show. Asked whether wrestling would ever return to TBS or TNT, Weiss said, 'Were leaving [the] door open, but in our current incarnation, it just doesnt match up well with the upscale networks weve built. What youre talking about, I wouldnt want to speculate on. For the time being, were gonna let somebody else worry about it.'"
Well, here's the chance to tell AOL/Time-Warner personnel what you think of what their "upscale network" is doing.
Here are addresses, phone numbers, URLs and e-mail addresses for various related entities tied to this situation:
* America Online
22000 AOL Way
Dulles, VA 20166-9323
Phone: (703) 265-1000/Fax: (703) 918-1400
AOL Member Services: (800) 827-6364
Windows Tech Support: (888) 346-3704
Mac Tech Support (888) 265-8007
Sales & Billing: (888) 265-8003
* AOL online customer contact addresses: http://www.corp.aol.com/contact.html or http://www.aol.com/info/feedback.html
AOL Time Warner
AOL Time Warner Inc.
75 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 484-8000
Fax: (212) 489-6183
Maureen Squillace (Los Angeles)
Stanka Luna (New York)
Let them know what you think.
Remind those you speak with or write to at AOL that they don't have the only ISP in the world. Suggest to them that you'll find another provider, and that you'll urge as many friends as you can to do the same.
Remind them those you communicate with at TBS that you can watch other TV stations. Remind them that you can let the sponsors of their various stations know that you don't appreciate the arrogance of Jamie Kellner in stereotyping you as a wrestling fan, and taking away entertainment that you enjoy.
As we've learned in the battle against the Parents Television Council on behalf of our right to view WWF programming, companies take people seriously when they respond strongly, and in an organized manner.
It likely won't change any decisions at AOL/Time-Warner. But it may allow you to make some as to how you spend your dollars for their products and services.
Let them know how you feel.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)