USA Network could lose its top-rated World Wrestling
Federation programming as soon as September.
WWF executives have said for months that they plan to
consider bids from several media companies for a possible cable-and-broadcast licensing
deal. But on March 1, the company made it official.
"We provided notice of our cancellation of our
contract with USA Network with respect to four hours of programming, effective September
2000," the WWF said in an earnings report released on Wednesday.
USA currently carries four hours of WWF programming. The
two-hour Monday-night Raw is War show is consistently one of cable's
highest-rated programs. USA also carries the one-hour Livewire show on Saturday
mornings, and Sunday Night Heat on Sundays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
USA's rights for one of the five hours of WWF
programming it carries (likely Livewire) expire in September. The remaining four
hours expire in 2001, but WWF's contract gives it the right to cancel its contract
for the remaining four hours in September.
It's been widely reported that CBS Corp. -- which
could run WWF programming on its network, CBS Cable's The Nashville Network or
Viacom's MTV after the companies' planned merger closes -- is a leading
contender for the new contract. A CBS spokesman declined to comment.
"We won't negotiate until all bids are in since
we have the last word on deciding whether the WWF stays," a USA Network spokesperson
In January, USA Networks Inc. chairman Barry Diller said
that extending USA's WWF contract "is a high priority for us, absolutely."
If USA had to resort to replacement programming, the
network would add more movies to its schedule, one source said Friday
The WWF already generates most of its revenue from
television rights and stands to generate a windfall under a new deal.
WWF wrestling generated $65.9 million in "live and
televised entertainment" revenue for the three months ended Jan. 28, up from $46.3
million over the same period last year.