Grappling With Life After 'Raw’

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Spike TV will tag-team CSI repeats with programming from the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Monday nights in a move to pin down fans that may follow the World Wrestling Entertainment’s weekly Raw series from the male-targeted service to USA Network in October.

The network will also look to lure WWE wrestling fans back during late night, with repeat episodes of its Saturday-night Total Non-Stop Wrestling series.

Spike TV executive vice president of programming and production Kevin Kay said the network will immediately pit its burgeoning UFC franchise against the first night of USA’s WWE Raw with a live telecast from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. That will mark the second of six UFC live shows Spike will air over the next two years as part of a new agreement, but Kay said future events may not necessarily air opposite the WWE.

Spike’s first UFC event on Aug. 6 generated a 1.5 household rating, drawing 2 million viewers. With a UFC pay-per-view card scheduled for Oct. 7, Kay said the live show provides an opportunity for the organization to promote its other properties.

“There will be a lot of people tuning in thinking that wrestling is still here that will get exposure to the [UFC],” Kay said. “We think a live event that night will be a good way to go for us.”

In the weeks after the UFC event, Kay said the network will run a four-hour block of CSI reruns beginning at 6 p.m., followed by a one-hour block of vintage UFC programming, dubbed UFC Unleashed. At 11 p.m., the network will continue to run new episodes of its reality series Ultimate Fighter.

Kay said the block of CSI — which he says draws a higher percentage of male viewers on Spike TV than the female-skewed original airings do on CBS — along with the UFC programming, will draw a significant audience as it looks to replace the ratings-rich WWE.

Still, the network will have a hard time matching the average 3.0 Monday primetime household rating, year to date, fueled by the 3.6 for its two WWE hours, Kay conceded.

“We’d love to be in the mid-2.0 [range] in households,” he said. “The WWE is obviously a big number to replace, but time will tell. CSI, in particular, skews older, which is good counterprogramming against the WWE.”

Spike also believes that its Ultimate Fighter reality series will continue to wrestle strong ratings numbers, despite losing the WWE as lead-in programming. Through four episodes, the sophomore series has averaged a 1.6 rating.

“That was a great lead-in, but now that we’re in the second season, we’ve really built a loyal audience for it and I think it will do very well on its own.”

For wrestling fans looking for more action after WWE’s Raw, Kay said Spike will repeat its original Saturday night airing of TNA at midnight on Mondays.

The wrestling outfit signed a one-year deal with Spike this past June, after buying time on Fox Sports Net.

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