Inside Pulse Special Rasslin Roundtable
IP Wrestling’s Scott Keith and IP Television’s Murtz Jaffer
Discuss RAW’s Move From TSN to The Score
Scott Keith: So we’re discussing the move of RAW to The Score tonight, which probably isn’t a big deal to American readers but is pretty huge here in Canada.
Murtz Jaffer: RAW is leaving TSN, after how many years Scott? I believe it is five?
Scott Keith: The show debuted on TSN in 1996, in fact. The first one I can remember watching was the Intercontinental tournament finals with Marc Mero going over Faarooq to win the belt, back in the bad old days. Live airings are a little more recent, beginning in the “RAW is WAR” era in 1997.
Murtz Jaffer: I feel much older. It’s interesting. While I am happy about the move, RAW on TSN is how I got my start in this industry. It was in 1997 that I got my first job in wrestling. Emailing the editor of TSN.ca everyday for a year for a gig as a wrestling writer. And now look where we are 10 years later. So I like the move. You?
Scott Keith: I was certainly getting tired of the pre-emptions, and the writing was on the wall with Monday Night Football coming to TSN. The immediate problem for the WWE, however, is the difference in Canadian distribution — TSN is widely available, whereas the Score is a distant third at the moment. I think the Score will treat them better (since the WWE owns something like 5-10% of the channel as a result of their deal to get Smackdown on there in the first place) but prestige-wise, it’s a step down. That being said, I do like having everything on one station now.
Murtz Jaffer: This stuff has happened in the States before. USA to Spike and then back to USA. So while it is the dog shows south of the border, it’s obviously the curling impediment up here. But the interesting thing is that the story is RAW still won’t ever air live here. Apparently it will be on a delay and start at 10 PM on The Score. Will this be a factor? Would you rather have it air at 9 PM most of the time and be preempted, or have it air later and never be preempted?
Scott Keith: Well, the days when people hung by their TVs watching live are long gone, so I don’t know that the change in airing time will affect most people that much. When the show first started airing live, their was the competition factor with Nitro constantly challenging them, and it left the show with a sense of urgency that I don’t think it has now. Whereas I used to avoid the internet during the live RAW times so I could have the experience untouched by spoilers, now I don’t care so much whether I watch live, or the replay, or even if I watch at all. Usually it’s the last one given the state of the show these days. So I’d say that given my disdain for pre-emption before now, I’d be happier with a later start time but no pre-emptions, rather than chance the same thing that the show went through on TSN.
Murtz Jaffer: My feeling is that the late start will not have an effect either. I just think that it will be the same core audience switching channels. Now the one thing that we haven’t considered is that damn ticker, and I am sure our American ESPN fiends can identify. The ticker is synonymous with The Score and I find the constant scrolling scores very distracting. Do you think that is going to affect Melina’s entrance?
Scott Keith: Melina’s entrance in a force of nature that cannot be controlled by mere tickers.
Murtz Jaffer: I wish I could score on The Score.
Scott Keith: I think the real question is whether the waning ratings draw of the show is a reason why the WWE’s popularity in general is waning, or if it’s a symptom, or maybe a little of both. (In Canada, I’m talking.)
Murtz Jaffer: I agree. But now that I know you are a reality fan, I will inject my necessary Survivor reference and say that the same 20 million Americans who watch Survivor every week will watch regardless of what the show or the brand has become. Similarly, while the growth of the company seems stunted to a certain degree, it still retains its base. And that base isn’t going anywhere, except for up a few channels on the remote.
Scott Keith: That’s true, although you certainly don’t see them touring Canada much these days, outside of their impending trip to Toronto and Montreal to piss off the fanbase with Survivor Series. In fact, they’ve hit Edmonton & Calgary every year since 1997 for a RAW, and abruptly stopped this year, robbing me of the chance to weasel free tickets in the comp section and harass Shane McMahon again. That upsets me somehow.
Murtz Jaffer: Why Shane?
Scott Keith: Because he was silly enough to sit there with Chuck Palumbo as a date at the Backlash PPV. I mean, what other reason do you need?
Murtz Jaffer: You’re just like my buddy Kaysar, which I guess is probably wise. Don’t go for the head. Go for the legs.
Scott Keith: Like Vince would ever sit in the stands and watch one of his own shows. That might actually result in him learning what’s wrong with the product.
Murtz Jaffer: Is this the third biggest Canadian wrestling story of all-time? I am sure you know the other two.
Scott Keith: It’s pretty big, all right. I dunno how it rates next to the Bret and Owen entries, because it’s not going to directly affect careers or make major headlines. The WWE in general is a pretty marginal entity these days in mainstream press, which is very different from the glory days of the Attitude era in Canada.
Murtz Jaffer: What do you think about the timing of it? I mean the conspiracy theorist in me certainly suggests that it isn’t ironic that wrestling is taken off the Bell Globemedia/TSN radar as soon as the CHUM takeover happens.
Scott Keith: I was pretty curious about that myself. Bell has had a relationship with them before, however, as Sportsnet aired Heat for most of its run here in Canada. Getting into conspiracy theories about Bell buying CHUM would eat up another roundtable by itself, however.
Murtz Jaffer: So we really can’t answer the ‘why now?’ question?
Scott Keith: I think it’s “why now” because they wanted to have their fall schedule finalized now.
Murtz Jaffer: Three more points that I would like to consider, and we can quick hit these. The first is why so many digs were taken at TSN during today’s press conference after so many glorious years. The second is why am I feeling disloyal by desiring the move away from TSN? And finally, what will the short and long term impacts of this move be?
Scott Keith: The first is easy: The WWE is all about taking cheap shots when a deal doesn’t go their way. It’s just what they do.
Murtz Jaffer: So you think they were low-balled? Also known as Chyna’d?
Scott Keith: Oh, given the ratings drop, I’d bet on it. It was no secret that ratings were in the toilet on TSN.
Murtz Jaffer: Alrighty. Why am I feeling disloyal?
Scott Keith: RAW has had a long association on TSN in Canada. 10 years is a long time, if I may paraphrase Andre the Giant. People dislike change, and switching to The Score will take getting used to. People said that the move from USA to Spike would have no long-term ratings impact, but they dropped a point right away and never really recovered, so it’s a factor.
Murtz Jaffer: It’s a good point. Another is this key 18-34 demographic. I think many of us grew up alongside RAW on TSN. It’s like a divorce. Of your parents I mean.
Scott Keith: Absolutely. I was 21 years old when RAW started on TSN. That’s FOREVER ago.
Murtz Jaffer: I think that the short-term impact will be swift with an immediate dip. I have never seen The Score adequately promote anything and I thought TSN did an okay job of it. I used to live for those Jim Van Horne throws.
Scott Keith: Yeah, I’m trying to remember some of his classic ones, but sadly I’m drawing a blank right now. The mocking during commercial breaks got increasingly mean-spirited as the years went by, however.
Murtz Jaffer: Yeah, I guess that’s why they got them back earlier this afternoon at the press conference. What do you think about the long-term effect? Honestly? I don’t see it making any kind of a difference in raw numbers (pun intended).
Scott Keith: I think at this point domestic business is so crappy that whether it’s on TSN or The Score or The Fishing Network won’t matter — they have their core fanbase who watches no matter how dumb the shows get, and if they haven’t driven them off by now, they never will. I think it will destroy what little house show business in Canada they have, because as noted The Score never promotes anything and probably will continue not doing so. But on the TV side, we will adjust and life will go on.
Murtz Jaffer: I agree. Finally, I know you have a candle burning for the death of the Spirit Squad. I passed your condolences onto Kenny earlier this afternoon.
Scott Keith: I’ll jump on a trampoline in their honor. And then win the tag titles and never defend them.
Murtz Jaffer: I think we just did that. Thanks.
Scott Keith: No problem. Now everyone reading go buy my book!