Spike TV is exiting the wrestling ring. The network last Thursday announced it will not renew its contract for World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw series when it expires in September.
In a statement, Spike TV said that after several months of negotiations with the WWE, “we have decided to end our discussions about extending our relationship with the WWE beyond September 2005.”
Speculation has already begun that NBC Universal-owned USA Network will re-acquire the series it lost to what was then The Nashville Network in 2000. TNN eventually evolved into Spike TV.
“The series is headed to USA again,” said one network executive with knowledge of the situation.
While at USA, the Raw franchise was a ratings juggernaut, often helping the network finish as the top-rated basic cable network. While the WWE’s performance has tumbled over the past few years, Raw remains one of the highest-rated shows on cable.
Through the first two months of 2005, the show is averaging a 3.8 household rating on Monday nights.
Representatives from USA and WWE would not comment on the matter.
Spike executives provided a foreshadowing of things to come last month when network president Doug Herzog and MTVN group president Herb Scannell refused to give a firm commitment toward keeping the WWE on Spike, while discussing plans to develop more original programming for the men’s-targeted channel.
“Moving forward, Spike TV will expand its investments in original programming and new acquisitions for its core audience,” said the statement. The WWE recently confirmed it has talked to several cable networks about Raw.