Turner Broadcasting System Inc.-owned World Championship
Wrestling has tossed president Eric Bischoff out of the ring.
His replacement, executive vice president Bill Busch, must
try to get WCW to reassert its pay-per-view and basic cable strength against the archrival
World Wrestling Federation.
Busch won't be talking about his plans for a few
weeks, a WCW spokesman said last week, shortly after Busch was promoted from vice
president of strategic planning.
WCW officials wouldn't go into reasons behind the
shakeup. But it's no secret that the programmer has been in a slump against the WWF
in terms of both pay-per-view event buy rates and the Nielsen Media Research audience
ratings for basic-cable network coverage. Much of that cable coverage is designed to build
interest and sales for their PPV events.
Unfortunately for WCW, Thunder on TBS has shown
ratings slippage against UPN's new WWF Smackdown. Worse still, WCW's
linchpin, Monday Nitro, has lately hovered in the 3.0 and 4.0 primetime household
ratings range on Turner Network Television -- down from the 5.0 range about two years ago.
Meanwhile, the WWF's events on USA Network have been closer to 6.0 and 7.0.
One reason, industry sources speculated, may be that the
WWF seems to be benefiting from its increasingly bizarre and off-color
As the WWF put it in a recent ad in licensing publications,
"More mature audiences are looking for something a bit more brazen" from
USA's Raw Is War coverage in Monday primetime.
But in the Nielsens for the week ending Sept. 12, the two
organizations' Monday ratings were closer -- largely because USA's live U.S.
Open tennis coverage bumped the WWF into late night. The WWF averaged a 4.4 for its 11
p.m. to 1 a.m. coverage, with the first hour scoring a 4.6.
WCW's coverage, airing from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.,
averaged a 4.1, with its middle hour peaking at 4.4.
Bischoff, who helped bolster WCW by luring Hulk Hogan and
Randy "Macho Man" Savage from the WWF, will remain as part of the Turner family,
although a spokesman said it is too soon to be more precise.
Bischoff was a producer of the cable movie Assault onDevil's Island, starring Hogan, which ran under the "TNT Nitro"