World Wrestling Entertainment kissed and made up with USA Network and is moving back in, a sadder but wiser girl.
WWE has signed a three-year deal to bring "WWE Raw" back to USA in October, both sides announced yesterday.
WWE had been looking for a new TV home since mid-March, when Spike TV announced it would end its relationship with the franchise at the end of its current contract in September.
Much has changed since the '90s, when WWE wrestling was last in a relationship with USA Network.
Back then, WWE had the studlier name of World Wrestling Federation. That ended in 2002 when WWF got smacked down in court by the panda huggers at the World Wildlife Fund.
Also back in those days, USA Network was owned in large measure by a liquor company. Good times. Now it's owned by General Electric, parent of NBC Universal, which runs USA Network, among others.
USA introduced Monday night's "Raw" in 1993. A match made in heaven, it gave birth to cable ratings records and produced the top series on ad-based cable.
But, as so often happens in seemingly idyllic relationships, along came Another Media Conglom and broke up this perfect union.
That was Viacom, which had gotten into bed with WWF in summer '99, when its UPN network began broadcasting "WWF Smackdown!"
USA sued to try to save the relationship, but in June 2000 a Delaware court ruled that WWF could leave for Viacom, which put most of the wrestling fare on the Nashville Network.
WWE stuck with that network during its brief "The National Network" phase, stayed the course when it tried to pass itself off as TNN, and stood by it when it came out as Spike TV.
But since Doug Herzog took responsibility for Spike TV early this year, he has said in interviews that his top priority is producing high-quality scripted shows to complement the network's "CSI" repeats.
Ratings for WWE programming on cable are not what they were in the franchise's heyday; still, WWE's Monday "Raw" programming is usually the most-watched of any show on ad-supported cable.
On the other hand, wrestling is not a fave with Madison Avenue.
Last month, in announcing the end of its relationship with WWE, Spike TV said, "moving forward, Spike TV will expand its investments in original programming and new acquisitions for its core audience." Spike is scheduled to add "CSI: NY" reruns to its lineup in fall 2006.
(WWE's deal with UPN for "Smackdown!" is separate from the other WWE deal and has one more season after the current season.)
WWE's new deal with USA isn't as sweet as the one it had with Spike TV. WWE will receive a license fee for its programs that is similar to the deal it has with Spike, according to a WWE filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But under its Spike TV agreement, WWE sells most of the ad time in its cable programs; under the new deal, USA will sell all advertising in the programming and retain all ad revenues.
In addition to "Monday Night Raw," USA will telecast a one-hour weekend "Raw"-branded program and NBC Universal's Telemundo network will air Spanish-language versions of "Raw." NBC also has committed to airing at least two yearly, 90-minute Saturday late-night "Raw" specials.
Nine years later, "JAG" has been canceled -- again.
CBS and Paramount Network Television announced yesterday that the final episode will air at the end of this month.
The series was first canceled by NBC in its first season, 1995-96, when it averaged 11.4 million viewers and nearly 4 percent of the available 18- to 49-year-old audience. Yes, NBC used to cancel shows with that kind of numbers; now it calls them "hits."
CBS picked up the show and has run it since.
"We've had an amazing run, particularly for a series that was once canceled," creator/executive producer Donald P. Bellisario said yesterday in a news release in which he, CBS and Paramount fell all over each other with protestations of love and admiration for one another.
CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves called "JAG" "a very influential part of the network's turnaround."
In its first CBS season, the military drama (JAG stands for Judge Advocate General corps) averaged nearly 12 million viewers.
The following season, it gained viewers, reaching a peak of more than 14 million during the 1998-99 TV season. The show slid slightly the next two seasons, but in 2001-02 jumped to nearly 15 million viewers, which some speculated was the result of renewed interest following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
This season "JAG" is averaging just under 10 million viewers and, in its time slot, is averaging just 1.9 percent of viewers in that key 18-49 age bracket.
Al Gore thinks he can lure young viewers to his new cable TV network by having them contribute their own videos, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
And it's a really cheap way to program a network.
The former vice president joined investors yesterday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's confab in San Francisco to announce the creation of Current, targeting young viewers with news, culture and viewer-produced video, the AP said.
Gore headed an investment group that bought the network from Vivendi Universal for an undisclosed amount in May, Reuters noted in its coverage of the event.
Current is scheduled to launch Aug. 1 and will initially be available in 19 million cable-subscriber homes. The network will target viewers ages 18 to 34; Gore said the venture was dedicated to giving young people a voice, the AP reported. Because 18- to 34-year-olds just don't have enough voice on cable TV? Kind of like how PBS gives voice to those who can't get their voice heard on other networks -- like Tucker Carlson.
Anyway, Gore said this voice-giving would be accomplished with a blend of interactivity and populism, the AP reported. Don't you wish you'd been there -- I know I do. Gore indicated his commitment to the Web model by wearing a charcoal-gray suit and no tie -- the official special-occasion uniform of dot-commers.
"We're about empowering this generation . . . to engage in the dialogue of democracy and tell the story of what's going on in their lives in the dominant media of our time," the 57-year-old Gore said, according to the AP.
Central to his strategy is "inviting Current's viewers to supply their own video content" -- videos that eventually will comprise more than half of the programming, the AP said.
Where I come from that's called "cheap labor." Current will provide tools, made available on its Web site.
More traditional shows will be developed for Current under president of programming David Neuman. You may remember him from his days at CNN, or Disney. The channel also has established a partnership with Google, which will provide twice-an-hour updates on viewers' top Internet searches.