TNN, the next generation
TNN and USA Network adjust to post-wrestling repositioning
By Deborah D. McAdams -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/22/2000 8:00:00 PM
USA may not have The Rock anymore; it does have nearly nekked dancers in The Chippendale Murders. And don't be surprised if Capt. Jean Luc Picard shows up on TNN.
Both networks are making colorful adjustments to the World Wrestling Federation's switch from a 17-year run on USA Network to its new home on TNN.
Star Trek: The Next Generation is just one of the shows for which TNN is making a bid in its post-MTV takeover makeover, according to industry sources.
Toto, we're not in Nashville anymore.
A Trek series is about as far as it gets from The Grand Ole Opry, TNN's signature franchise when the network was based in, and named for, Nashville. TNN's hokey- hick history is giving way to the MTV machine, from the mod new hot-pink logo to the "Pop on TNN" tagline. Diane Robina, general manager of TNN, declined to comment on the Trek deal but said the New York-based National Network is going after a younger demo now that it has Raw Is War, the No. 1-rated series in cable.
Raw alone more than doubled TNN's prime time youth quotient, especially teen-age boys. Two weeks after Raw hit TNN on Sept. 25, males 12-17 jumped 300%, from a 0.2/18,800 to a 0.8/72,000 (cable rating/household). Men 18-24 and 18-34 doubled for the network, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings. On Monday, Oct. 16, TNN actually had more men 18-34 for wrestling than FOX had for the Mets-Cards game. Raw popped TNN 66% in overall prime time ratings. In the two-week period before Raw, TNN averaged a 0.6/476,000 in prime; Raw prime (through Oct. 8) was a 1.5/1.2 million, thanks to a 5.4 average from the wrestling franchise.
USA didn't suffer as much as TNN gained. It fell only 7% in prime, from a 1.5/1.2 million to a 1.4/1.1 million. Predictably, most of the defectors were teenage boys-males 12-17 dropped 50%, from a 1.8/166,600 to a 0.9/77,100. Men 18-24 dropped 36%; men 18-34 dropped 33%. Rob Sorcher, the new executive vice president and general manager of USA, said that sans wrestling, the network is actually gaining 18-to-49s and 25-to-54s.
"These numbers tell you that wrestling was not a promotional platform for this network," he said.
Indeed, wrestling fans are notoriously difficult to keep. TNN is bracketing Raw with Martial Law, which isn't exactly "popping."
For Sorcher, who has spent most of his career programming and marketing to children, the challenge will be to define USA without the WWF. As much as network executives now claim the two are not synonymous, they weren't saying that during advertising sales events early this year. USA will continue its quest to be a general entertainment network, but one with a definite target.
Since Sorcher joined USA just three weeks ago, it's a little early to speculate just what that target will be, he said, but he's already got definite ideas about programming. USA will crank out 24 original movies in 2001, compared to 18 this year. Cover Me and Huntress, two original action dramedies, have been renewed. La Femme Nikita, a fan favorite, will return with an eight episode finale in January.
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