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NFL butts heads with WWE
Potential conflict for TSN between Raw and football
By SCOTT ZERR - Edmonton Sun




EDMONTON - A new TV deal in the U.S. for Monday Night Football could have significant ramifications for Canadian fans of World Wrestling Entertainment.

TSN currently airs the WWE's Raw program live at 7 p.m. on Mondays in Edmonton, but if TSN follows suit with ESPN, the Canadian broadcaster may wind up dumping the WWE in favour of NFL football when the 2006 season rolls around.

ESPN takes over the NFL's Monday night game in '06 after acquiring the rights from ABC earlier this week. Last season, the NFL aired locally on A-Channel.

The Canadian ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research for the period of April 12, 2004, to April 10, 2005, indicate it might be a major mistake for TSN to drop the WWE.

Raw is the No. 1-rated regularly scheduled show on Canadian specialty channels, earning 346,000 viewers for the live showing and nearly 500,000 when combined with the same-night replay (airing at 10 p.m. in Edmonton).

The NFL ranks fourth on Canadian specialty channels with 288,000 viewers, placing it behind YTV's SpongeBob SquarePants at No. 2 and CFL games at No. 3.

"We have had a great relationship with TSN for a long time," said Carl DeMarco, president of WWE Canada. "We have had scheduling conflicts in the past and we've worked them out. We're trying to work this out now."

Industry sources noted yesterday that when word of TSN's potential conflict arose, several other Canadian networks quickly approached the WWE about taking over the rights to Raw. Rogers Sportsnet and the Score also air WWE programming.

TSN could face serious competition in the prime-time Monday slot if they choose to go head to head, programming Monday Night Football against Raw. One option for TSN could be to air Raw on a tape-delay basis after the Monday night game during the NFL season, but that likely wouldn't be a popular move among wrestling's viewers who are loyal to the live airing.

The WWE's programming could also become more attractive to Canadian broadcasters after recent news that Raw will be switching from Spike TV to the USA Network in the U.S. come October. That deal includes at least two Saturday Night Main Event specials to air on NBC in the time-slot held by Saturday Night Live.

"It's far too early to comment or determine the impact this will have on TSN's broadcast schedule," TSN president Phil King told SLAM! Wrestling.

"We're evaluating all our options and will create the best schedule possible for our viewers. TSN has enjoyed a long, successful partnership with the WWE for 10 years. We are working together with the WWE to find a solution that benefits both companies, the viewers and fans."


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