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herbie747

Wrestling Channel Miscellany

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Herbie, I'm sure you have fond memories of answering the same old questions on an almost daily basis.

 

''Any plans to show any old WCW?''

 

''Where is the ECW Stuff?''

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What was the deal with the airing of unedited footage before the watershed? I seem to recall seeing unedited CZW Cage of Death footage one afternoon but might be making that up.

 

Yeah, I'm probably wrong, but I remember OFCOM mentioning TWC in a few of their broadcast bulletins. (ADDED) Here is TWC mentioned in an OFCOM bulletin from 2004.

 

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/enforcement/broadcast-bulletins/pcb61/issue34.pdf

 

I'll always remember the tests on Friendly TV too. I remember my brother watching a James Tighe and Paul London match a lot on there. Might have been at Frontiers of Honour. He nearly got back into the grappling off the back of seeing that match, like the old days. I remember a "Mean" Gene hosted show too in which he showed some classic US grappling from the 60s and 70s. It was the right grunt and groan stuff. I don't believe that programme was ever shown on TWC. I loved it.

Edited by bAzTNM#1

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How was Simon Rochford to deal with and was it you or him who talked Jody Fleisch into coming out of retirement? The pop for Jody at the SFX that night was unreal!

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Herbie, I'm sure you have fond memories of answering the same old questions on an almost daily basis.

 

''Any plans to show any old WCW?''

 

''Where is the ECW Stuff?''

 

Well if they did ask those questions they were stupid. By the time TWC launched Vince already owned the rights to all WCW and ECW footage.

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Interview I did with Herbie from when the channel was rebranded as TWC Fight (taken from the Greetings Grapple Fans ebook.)

 

What were the best and worst decisions you made at TWC?

 

There was never any one bad decision. I suppose when we launched, our costs were very high, as it was all new to us: we had too many editors, we were paying too much for programming, and or workflow wasn’t as tight as it is now. All these improvements come with time though, so there was nothing we really could have done differently at the time, without being able to see the future. I suppose for my own sake, I would probably stay completely away from posting on the internet.

 

I guess the best decisions we made were knowing when to pull back and stop losing money in the hope it would turn around. We reduced costs by approx 50% going into 2005, and actually turned a profit by just showing the programmes that did well for us in 2004, and doing ratings-based deals for most new content, instead of a flat fee. We are in business to make money – not to lose money while building a brand, as that’s never guaranteed. We always kept a tight control on costs, which, despite internet speculation of doom & gloom whenever we pulled back and reduced content/costs, has enabled us to last almost 4 years now!

 

What effect did the loss of TNA have on the channel?

 

It was a big loss, but it was never our highest rated show to begin with. It also coincided with our re-branding to TWC Fight!, so we had just started showing a lot of new MMA programming anyway, and we had a whole new audience replacing the loss of TNA viewers. It was definitely unfortunate, as it was our best produced show, but it was bound to happen at some stage as TNA grew.

 

What prompted the switch in focus from purely wrestling to including MMA as well?

 

The rise in popularity of MMA, and the decline in popularity of wrestling worldwide. We also found that there was less & less quality wrestling content even available to fill our schedule, and a lot of the promotions we started showing in 2004 were out of business: FWA, 3PW, GAEA, Wildside, MLW, etc. It was a necessary, and fruitful, decision.

 

Did being a wrestling channel have any effect (positive or negative) on ad sales, or was it purely down to viewing figures?

 

Mainly down to figures. Our audience is primarily males aged 16-34, which is THE key demographic that advertisers seek. As long as we delivered that audience for them, then there was no real difficulty at all.

 

BARB’s rating system (the UK equivalent of Nielsen, which produces figures based on a sample of just 5,000 homes) made it difficult to measure audiences on a niche channel like TWC. Did you know this going on, or was it an unforeseen problem?

 

We were fully aware of this going in, as the Dolphin TV managing directors have been in the broadcast industry for years. (Dolphin is a broadcasting firm involved in the channel’s management.) It’s a known issue that all niche channels complain about but have to deal with: the industry has changed in the last ten years, but BARB hasn’t changed or updated with it. Sure, BARB worked when there were 5 or 6 channels – but now with hundreds of satellite channels, 5000 homes are far from representative of what the UK are watching!

 

Several programmes were dropped because they had low ratings and therefore you couldn’t sell advertising for them. Would it have been possible to sell packages of advertising across the schedule based on the channel’s overall figures instead?

 

That’s how we already sell all our advertising. For example, if we sell a campaign to ‘Lucozade’, and promise to deliver 180,000 (18-34 male) viewers to them, that means we schedule their adverts during our shows until we deliver that number of viewers. And we HAVE to deliver those numbers, so ‘Lucozade’ will never be left short; poorer ratings might just mean it takes us longer to deliver. If it takes 2 months, so be it. With some shows rating Zero (that is, no viewers in homes measured by BARB), it means we can’t reach that figure, and we’re wasting potential advertising time. And it’s still costing us money to air that show because of broadcasting costs, satellite time, listing feed, editing, admin and so on. So not only do we not make money from a ‘Zero’ rated show, we actually lose money, as the channel’s running costs still need to be paid. So if a show delivers very poor ratings, it gets dropped. It’s basic business.

 

Was TWC profitable over its lifetime?

 

It wasn’t in 2004, and it was in 2005 & 2006. It was around break-even in 2007, but for the last few months of 2007 we avoided buying any new programming, as we were negotiating with The Fight Network. We didn’t want to be buying any new content from September 2007 onwards as we didn’t know what the plan would be going forward, so couldn’t commit to any deals. That obviously affected our ratings as we ran a lot of repeats towards the end of 2007, but it was a necessity that we couldn’t then explain publicly.

 

Which were/are the highest rated shows on the channel?

 

World of Sport – it always has been since day one, consistently and by a considerable amount.

 

Was it a surprise that World of Sport did so well? Did it bring in a different audience to other shows?

 

Yes, generally it attracted an older demographic, but a lot of younger people and current fans also tuned in to see what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t really a surprise at all, since it attracted such a huge rating back in the day, there was bound to be a significant amount of people tuning in for nostalgia alone, and luckily they stayed tuned! I was more surprised that most other shows didn’t rate so well!

 

Will there ever be in-house productions like The Bagpipe Report again?

 

Likely not from TWC, but The Fight Network produce some fantastic in-house programming already, like One on One, Rough and Wrestling Reality, as well as daily Knockout News items. We are currently working with Redchurch productions in bringing viewers the latest UK news too, as was seen just this weekend with our pre-fight coverage of UFC 80 in Newcastle, with Ian Freeman interviewing various fighters! But it’s likely that TFN may produce something similar to the Bagpipe Report at some stage as they have lots of fresh & exciting plans & ideas for moving forward!

 

What variations did you find in the way British promotions dealt with the channel?

 

Some were more obviously far more professional than others in their approach to looking for a TV deal in the first place. RQW actually used an agency to approach us for a deal, which was a very professional approach, albeit not necessary, but a nice touch. On the flipside, despite having press and general contact info on our website, you’d be surprised how many people sent me private messages on various internet forums asking for a TV deal. They spouted all sorts of made-up statistics about the attendance for their shows (or their intended shows), complete with atrocious spelling and most (not just some) even forgetting to name their promotion or sign their own name at the end of their message! Sometimes I’d be lucky to get a website link.

 

From the British promotions we did do deals with, some were more organised & professional than others in the delivery of their shows for playout (some were frequently late, and the episodes had to be cancelled), and some were late with delivery of synopsis & duration information to us: anytime our weekly listings newsletter said “Listings Not Available” for a British promotion, it simply meant that they weren’t arsed e-mailing through a synopsis for their TV show. Yet sometimes I’d see the synopsis posted on the UKFF forum (which was obviously their priority over the SKY TV Guide), so we’d copy and paste it from there: unbelievable! And some didn’t adhere to censorship guidelines, and episodes had to be pulled. That said, anyone falling into this latter category didn’t last very long on the channel anyway.

 

What advice would you have for British promotions hoping to get on TV?

 

Let TV be your final goal. Concentrate on getting the crowds in the door (in addition to keeping your costs down), so you don’t lose money on your shows. And there’s no better promotion method than local postering and flyering (see All-Star & LDN as prime examples of how to draw crowds), and some local radio & newspaper ads only if you can afford it. If you’re consistently drawing good crowds, then slowly start buying some branded equipment like a ring apron, and maybe a small set/entranceway. Then try to find a COST EFFECTIVE way of getting your shows taped – usually film/media students will do it for cheap, as they want experience, but most of them haven’t a clue either, so don’t be afraid to tell them to bugger off if they do a poor job.

 

Good lighting is paramount, and a good wide shot angled down on the ring. If you don’t have a good wide shot, and use close-up shots too much, then the editing will give off a cramped feeling and be hard to watch. Get a few shows taped and get them produced onto DVD, and don’t approach a TV company until you are happy with your DVD product. Get some good graphic templates together that you can use for all of your name-bars, replays, transitions, opening credits, etc. This is worth investing in and only has to be done once, because if it looks good, it can be used on all DVDs and any other video output. Try to find a few unsigned bands to provide music, as you can’t be using commercial tracks, as it comes across as unprofessional and will leave the TV channel liable for PRS (performing rights society) fees, so they’ll likely dismiss it there and then.

 

And something people always underestimate is sound: take a hard line from your mixing desk into one of your cameras, because in most indie promotions , you can’t hear a word they’re saying once someone takes the mic. And finally, if you’re happy with your picture, editing, sound quality, music, graphics, crowds and set, then contact a TV company by formal letter providing info such as: where you’re based, how long you’ve been running, what crowds you usually draw, can you produce weekly & episodic TV, etc. Don’t send a badly written PM on a forum!

 

You were a fairly regular and often outspoken poster on internet forums during TWC’s time on air? Did this help or hurt the channel?

 

Maybe it hurt the internet’s public perception of TWC a little bit, but our ratings were never reflected by what was going on on the net, as is usually the case with attendance at shows too. The internet is not the bigger picture. I was put under an immediate spotlight when news of TWC broke, scrutiny for everything that was going on on-air, and took lot of unnecessary (in my opinion) abuse; but I didn’t handle it very well either. Myy instinct was to be defensive, and that didn’t do me any favours.

 

Most viewers and fans have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, and what’s involved with running a channel (and it was my first time too!), and we were doing licensing deals with some of the craziest people I have ever dealt with in any walk of life. I would get wound up easily, because people thought it was as simple as “get old AJPW matches!” There are about half a dozen variables in doing a deal, that need to be considered and in place, so it was frustrating at the time. I was a fan for years before launching TWC, and I was also on the net for years having slagging matches with people on various forums, as most people do (especially wrestling fans). Then  I suddenly had to stop and/or take abuse and respond politely & professionally. Iit was all new to me at the time, but it’s 4 years later now, and I like to think I’ve improved.

 

How representative was/is the TWC internet of the channel’s audience?

 

I have gotten some good constructive advice from some of the more intelligent posters on the TWC forums and the UKFF, which we always took onboard. But of we listened to the internet alone and started airing some of the smaller, more niche promotions, we’d be marketing the channel towards a very VERY niche audience (and we’re niche enough as it is!), and we’d have been well out of business by now!

 

One or two more obscure programmes are fine, like CZW, and the odd IWA: Mid South ‘Supercard’, as it brings variety into the schedule, but if we showed any more than that, it would affect our overall ratings, which are already tight. So it’s all about finding the right balance between mass appeal (World of Sport, Cage Fighter, TNA), UK/home-based programming (LDN, UK MMA, RQW, IWW) and niche shows (CZW, Gladiator Challenge, IWA, GAEA). It’s easier said on the internet than done in reality. Despite all the criticisms, we have lasted 4 years and are growing, and I have made a very healthy living out of the business I have been a fan of since 1986.

 

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Just throwing a small bit in here..I'll always remember TWC as the first time I ever saw anything outside of WWE, I was only about 13 at the time and I first came across NWA - TNA, ROH and Shoot Interviews and it really opened my mind to wrestling other than WWE.

 

To this day whenever I think of Jushin Liger I think of the trailer used on TWC. 

 

I wish I would have been older and been part of it more as I would of loved to have been at the international showdown shows and also watched more of the content

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I love this thread already.

 

I'm curious about one thing regarding the promotion you were looking at setting up, Herbie. You said that the monthly taping wasn't deemed viable because there was no profit to be made on the show and you would just break even.

 

From a different perspective you could have seen it as, aside from your time, essentially free content for your station until it picked up enough momentum to tour around the UK? It would have also opened up the door to numerous revenue streams, such as

 

- The obvious advertising you would have got on TWC

- Advertising banners at the live event which would have been seen on TV

- Merchandise sales online

- Merchandise sales at live events

- Food and drink sales at the events

- Event programmes and ad spaces

- "Season/membership" tickets

- Brand partnerships - Your announcers/some wrestlers would wear their merch

- Advertising spaces online

- Meet and greets

- Associated training school

- DVD sales (compilations, other footage)

 

I'm not doubting that you didn't go through all this but if the tapings themselves broke even then you could have made the profits on the extras. 

Edited by Undefeated Steak

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From what I recall, the idea wasn't really to be running a promotion as such -- it would purely be a TV show. The idea would be that the ticket sales at the taping would make enough profit to cover the production of the TV, effectively giving TWC some original programming free of charge and to the production standards they wanted.

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I loved The Wrestling Channel at the start, one of the main reasons being that I got to see fairly recent CMLL in perfect quality. Things were different back then regarding Lucha TV; CMLL coverage was crap with only one hour per week, all us fans had to anxiously wait for Alfredo's quarterly (or longer) listings to even find out what made air. Then there was the cost of getting a hold of it. TWC changed lthat, and it was awesome. Sadly it only lasted about 3 months, but I guess no one was really into it, so you can't argue with that. 

 

It started at a cool time also, when CMLL was quite hot, with the Park/Shocker vs Guerreros feud and title match, as well as a few undercard matches being picked for airing over the main or semi, sometimes involving the Volador/Safari/Felino trio and their Mexican National trios titles. There was a decent little Tarzan Boy v Atlantis singles match on one of the earlier episodes too I remember, Perrito was battling the Capos, the Guapos were feuding and Super Crazy was having one of his frequent spells there. Unfortunately, so was Vampiro.

 

As that's just a pointless reminisce, I guess I should ask a question; the shows were practically the same as what aired on Televisa in Mexico, so how did I end up seeing at least one show which i'm almost certain never aired over there? I definitely remember a Coliseo opener with The junior Brazos (now La Mascara and Psycho Clown) against Ramstein and Reyes Veloz, as well as a Pierroth v Universo 2000 Hair match. I think there was another match with Volador (an undercarder at the time) teaming alongside more established guys like Rayo de Jalisco or Atlantis (which wasn't too common)

 

I've always wondered what was up with that, as exclusive CMLL content was always pretty exciting to us back then, no matter if it was good or not, because there was so much being missed every week. Only 2 matches (and maybe highlights of a third) were shown per week when there were two whole shows (10-12 matches) being recorded, so we always lived in hope that archives were being kept of the stuff that didn;t air. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, other than a series, 'Sin Limite', which emerged on some local LA channel the following year showing an extra few matches (and which, coincidentally were recorded from around the same timeframe as TWC), 

 

CMLL was an odd one. I have no idea what we showed or when it was taped. There were 2 main contacts there: Francisco Alonso & Salvadore Lutteroth - but neither had great English. So we dealt with "Sandra Granidos".

 

But they were all hard to get in touch with. We agreed US$800 per episode - to them that was cheap since they're big in Mexico obviously. So they sent us a bunch of episodes in 1 batch. We just aired what they sent. And when we went to pay them, the bank rejected the details they'd given us for a transfer because they were not valid. We e-mailed asking for proper bank info, and they never replied! Then the show was cancelled anyway since nobody was watching - so they never even got paid for it, and never followed up with us after we tried numerous times to pay them.

 

Blake used to do a good job on The Bagpipe Report. What happened with him afterwards?

 

Yeah, he was good. Natural charisma - a few people found the accent annoying, but he was a good fit for the show. He's still around: http://www.blakenorton.com/

He lost an eye due to glaucoma in 2009.

 

What was the deal with the airing of unedited footage before the watershed? I seem to recall seeing unedited CZW Cage of Death footage one afternoon but might be making that up. Was that a case of reading the guidelines and assuming that was okay or had you been told it was? Did that stop due to complaints? Were there serious repercussions?

 

Without naming names (unless you wanted to) were there any mental stories when dealing with promotions? Did Zandig send you the CZW tapes wrapped in barbed wire or something of lesser, equal or greater madness?

 

We had 2 versions of each show - a pre & post watershed version. So whilst CZW was shown most weeks (if it was editable without ruining it), I doubt Cage of Death was on during daytime - it would have just been a 45min blur!

 

No mad stories though about dealing with them - sorry! Zandig was a really cool guy.

 

Sad playout question. Which company handled the playout, and were the shows watched before the insertion of the breaks? They used to crash in and out at some terrible times. And would that have been a problem on your end, or the playout (Red Bee) or whoever fucking up?

 

Also, other than WoS and TNA, was any footage particularly profitable for ads and that? I remember you saying WoS being successful. Also, where did you source the late night softcore? Tha British Made stuff under TWC Hot or whatever.

CAST on Newman Street, London, handled Playout. Yes, they were watched but a few of the editors didn't know wrestling, so some shows were edited better than others. Are you referring to crashes of the actual playout, or just bad choice of break times?

 

WOS and TNA pretty much funded the rest of the programming on the channel.

 

The Bang Babes stuff came from an Irish company called "Red Circle" - one of my friends married the owners daughter - they used to do ringtones & wallpaper, etc - remember those ads in the backs of magazine that offered tonnes of wallpapers & stuff? That was them.They set up a company called Bang Media in Camden, and the Bang Babes idea was so they could just show boobs for 3hrs, and then scroll all their premium rate numbers across the screen so people would get horny and call them. This stuff saved the channel in 2004, as we got £25k pm from the airtime buy.

 

 

Herbie, I'm sure you have fond memories of answering the same old questions on an almost daily basis.

 

''Any plans to show any old WCW?''

 

''Where is the ECW Stuff?''

 

We had ECW stuff lined up in 2002, until Vince bought it.

 

How was Simon Rochford to deal with and was it you or him who talked Jody Fleisch into coming out of retirement? The pop for Jody at the SFX that night was unreal!

Simon was cool. I met him in 2002 and we traded tapes. So he was a mate way before TWC. He then started up IWW in 2002 and I taped & edited the shows for him. 

 

Not sure re Jody Fleisch - his first match back was for IWW though!

 

I love this thread already.

 

I'm curious about one thing regarding the promotion you were looking at setting up, Herbie. You said that the monthly taping wasn't deemed viable because there was no profit to be made on the show and you would just break even.

 

From a different perspective you could have seen it as, aside from your time, essentially free content for your station until it picked up enough momentum to tour around the UK? It would have also opened up the door to numerous revenue streams, such as

 

- The obvious advertising you would have got on TWC

- Advertising banners at the live event which would have been seen on TV

- Merchandise sales online

- Merchandise sales at live events

- Food and drink sales at the events

- Event programmes and ad spaces

- "Season/membership" tickets

- Brand partnerships - Your announcers/some wrestlers would wear their merch

- Advertising spaces online

- Meet and greets

- Associated training school

- DVD sales (compilations, other footage)

 

I'm not doubting that you didn't go through all this but if the tapings themselves broke even then you could have made the profits on the extras. 

Yeah, but a sell-out was only break even- and we have to assume it won't sell out every time - it was too risky and a lot of work for the potential to break even.

 

Yes, we factored in everything, including potential international distribution - but none of that was guaranteed. It was just too much work & risk for some free footage. This was 2005 - we were watching our spending. it simply wasn't viable financially.

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Do you think it's possible for a Wrestling Channel featuring WOS, Lucha, Puro, US Indies, etc to work now on Sky/Virgin/Freeview? Or it would it be best suited to a subscription model like Netflix/WWE Network?

 

If it barely worked in 2004, it won't work now - piracy, internet, and TV has all changed. And there's less content.

 

Plus, WWE can't even get their Network to break even, and they own all the best English-language content in the world. 

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