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WCW on the ropes

The buyer of the wrestling operation is seeking a way out 3/18/2001 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Looks like Jamie Kellner is going to have a little more to clean up at Turner Broadcasting than expected. The AOL Time Warner subsidiary's deal to sell its ailing World Championship Wrestling operation is in a choke hold, with buyer Fusient Media Ventures looking for a way out of the ring.

Fusient, which is controlled by Classic Sports Network founders-and sellers-Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg and their partners, is finding the financial condition of the WCW circuit too much to bear. The WCW lost about $80 million last year, and TBS was trying to dump the operation to tidy up before AOL closed on its takeover of Time Warner.

An industry executive said the deal might be revived, like a wrestler perking up after a folding-chair beating to win the match. World Wrestling Federation Entertainment has expressed interest in the past and might be lured back.

But one thing is definite: The WCW is going off the air. Though not commenting on the status of the Fusient deal, a TBS spokesman acknowledged that TNT's WCW Nitro and TBS Superstation's WCW Thunder have been cancelled and will no longer appear after March 26.

Even though wrestling attracts the young viewers that so please newly appointed TBS CEO Kellner, previously chairman of WB Network, youth isn't everything. The spokesman said the programming "no longer matches the high-income demographic" TBS and TNT are targeting. Translation: There's no guaranteed TV exposure for any buyer. But a buyer could cut a deal with another TV network, such as USA Network, which lost the WWF's top-rated shows to Viacom's TNN.

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