ECCW loses B.C. TV slot
FRED JOHNS - SLAM! Wrestling
|Fans file into the Arts Center in Abbotsford for the first-ever TRW TV taping.
-photo by Fred Johns
Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling's long sought-after TV deal has been pulled from KVOS-TV, after airing its final episode November 4th. The decision to pull the show was sudden and unexpected. Just a week before the final taping, Top Ranked Wrestling aired promos hyping ECCW shows to take place in November that were to be TV tapings. The question on the minds of many -- from fans to the wrestlers themselves -- was what happened?
There does not seem to be any one answer. While the show was doing relatively well from a ratings standpoint, the cost of producing the show was more than its producer, Kevin MacDonald, could bear. ECCW was also having difficulty raising sponsorships and selling advertising on a show that was already running on the stringiest of shoestrings. The end was result was a sudden, though likely not impulsive decision from MacDonald to pull out.
"I had had enough," the producer of the wrestling show said in an interview. "I was losing a lot of money because I couldn't go out and do the news stories that put food on my table anymore." As well as producing Top Ranked, MacDonald also ran his own production company, KAM Productions, which routinely films news events that are then sold to local television for use in their own newscasts. (He also shot footage that has appeared on CNN, Hard Copy, Unsolved Mysteries and a host of other programs.) "I was putting in 60-70 hours a week to try and pump out the wrestling shows in the short time we had and I just got burnt out. I decided I was done and KVOS pulled the plug."
Unlike the traditional television show that has months to produce an episode, Top Ranked Wrestling's shows were on an extremely tight schedule. "In the real world," MacDonald explained, "television shows are usually produced a year in advance. The stuff you are seeing on TV now was likely produced six months ago. With the wrestling, we would shoot on a Friday or Saturday night and I'd have to have all four episodes (for the month) ready for voicing on Tuesday and the final product had to be submitted Thursday. Most shows have six weeks to produce an episode -- we had to produce four episodes in four days."
The toll it took on him was simply too much. "I was sitting at the computers for hours and hours, not seeing my family, not going out and doing the news and I just couldn't do that anymore," MacDonald lamented. Although there were a couple of weeks in between the hectic shooting schedule, the cycle would inevitably repeat again and each time it did, it cost him money. "There was this one weekend were there were five or six major news events in our area but because I was shooting the wrestling show I couldn't film them and I figure that weekend itself cost me about $2,500."
Which might have been okay if the wrestling show was making money. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn't. "I liked the wrestling -- it's not often you get a shot at putting a show on television and I was really hoping it would work," MacDonald said. "I was hoping it would make money and hoping that sponsors would come on board. But no one was getting sponsors and without them and without any revenue coming in, it no longer made financial sense to be on the air. The show was great for the wrestlers and the fans, but at the end of the day, it was a business and if it's not making money and losing revenue, why do it?"
It wasn't as if no one was watching it. According to MacDonald, the show was still getting decent ratings, even though its 1 p.m. time slot was far from ideal. "People were definitely watching the show," he said. "And it would probably have stayed on the air if I had stayed involved, but I just couldn't do it anymore. The bottom line of it is that my production company was on the line."
For its part, ECCW had tried to help Kevin out as much as they could. They offered to have some wrestling students shoot the shows and suggested hiring a few more editors. But that was an imperfect solution: it would take a long time to get the new editors up to speed and getting people to shoot the shows turned out to be harder than it first appeared. Kevin felt he was left with little choice and pulled out.
The move caught ECCW a bit off-guard. Dave Republic, the owner of ECCW, was obviously disappointed at Kevin's decision and it did catch him by surprise. "There was not a lot of notice given over the span of 24 hours and after that we had some conversations with KVOS and they decided, for the short term at least, they were going to pull the show off the air. It's disappointing to have it leave so quickly, but at the same time we got it on the air and look forward to establishing something in the near future."
ECCW bought the TV deal from TRW, another local promotion that was the first to secure it with KVOS. That sale took place in December, meaning the ECCW show had not managed to last even a year. But asked if he held any bitterness towards Kevin MacDonald, Republic said he did not. "Kevin was instrumental in getting local wrestling back on TV again and he worked hard for us. And I'm not one to go off about what feelings I might have about someone. I think all that Kevin did for the show was wonderful and I wish him all the best in the future. But, to be honest, the way the show ended was a bit negative but I have already shared my thoughts on that and it's best to leave it there."
The end of the TV deal is hardly the end for Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling, a promotion that is now entering its 11th year. "I think what has happened philosophically is that every time ECCW has run up against a challenge, we have always come out stronger," Republic shared. "I think we are very much a group that doesn't put their eggs in one basket. We have lots of ideas and are very flexible and that's just from the way we structure our company. We don't have just one person doing the work and we know how to bounce back from perceived hardships like losing a TV deal."
And, as Republic puts it, the closing of one door inevitably leads to the opening of another one. "The end of the TV deal does not mean the end of ECCW. We have some interesting things happening in 2007 and a resurgence in our company." He listed the imminent return of ECCW veteran "Loverboy" Johnny Canuck as one such example.
But the legacy of the TV deal will continue to be felt. A local Chamber of Commerce organization nominated ECCW as a potential winner in its Small Business category, due in no small part to the work ECCW had done promoting several non-profit charities through the TV show. Ironically, Republic received news about the nomination the same day he received Kevin MacDonald's email about the end of the show. "So you see," he said, "one opportunity invariably leads to other ones."
There is one opportunity that will be missed, however. And that's the chance the wrestlers on the ECCW roster will have to shine in a wider audience. "It was great to see the guys on TV and be able to see them broadcast their skills beyond the 200 people in our venues," Republic said. "And the show also brought a renewed sense of interest in our product and a renewed sense of vigor from the wrestlers and the owners of ECCW." Still, the end of TV is not the end of the world. "We're already gearing up for our next show and it's going to be unbelievable."
MacDonald said he feels bad for the wrestlers who have lost the added exposure. "I feel bad for a lot of the workers," he commented. "They did put their hearts and souls into it. I wanted to give them a place to shine. But TV is no silver bullet. To get the product out, you have to hit your targets and if you don't do that and can't get it to the station on time, the show will be cancelled."
Is there a silver bullet for televised independent wrestling? "I don't think so but then I don't know too much about wrestling," MacDonald answered honestly. "My expertise is TV. I knew how to produce TV, knew how to get the product done on time. That was my job, to get the job done and make sure KVOS was happy and that the show met broadcast standards. Yeah, there were a few hiccups along the way. But then again we didn't have $100,000 worth of equipment in my office to produce that kind of stuff."
And while Kevin initially got involved with ECCW because he loved wrestling, he admitted he was relieved to be out. "The stress on my family was immense. They'd never see me. I was getting snappier, grumpier and I wasn't just working eight-hour days. I would go into the editing booth and I wouldn't come out for four days. I was living on two hours of sleep a day just trying to make sure these shows came out okay."
Now, he said, he has returned to shooting news footage and couldn't be happier. "My family is happy that I am back in news. I am bringing income in again, making money and we're not starving anymore -- there were times the rent almost wasn't paid and those days are gone."
But with that comes a trade-off, one that is perhaps best summed up by a fan of ECCW, a young woman named Jen who watched the show each week. When asked if the end of the TV deal was good or bad for the promotion, she considered her answer carefully. "People have mentioned now the ‘Real ECCW' can come back," she said, referring to ECCW's reputation as a more extreme promotion. "The fans have done nothing but bitch and moan about the lack of hardcore and lack of the good, old fashioned ECCW, so I suppose that we'll be able to see much more of that style of wrestling. But, I would have liked to have seen the storylines continue the way they were. And it was great to see some of the wrestlers without gimmicks receive some and work storylines that actually fit. There were some amazing matches."
She considered another moment. "Is the end of TV good or bad for ECCW? It's both. The guys were given more exposure on a different market. It was a small one, mind you, but they had the opportunity to reach different fans and different people who may not have known the indy scene existed like it did. And to lose that," she said with some finality, "well, it sucks."
May 3, 2006: ECCW's TV show renewed
Dec. 8, 2005: ECCW buys TRW in BC TV deal
June 14, 2005: B.C. promotion scores TV slot
Visit KVOS' official website at www.kvos.com
Fred Johns is one of those pseudo-journalist types that likes to think he knows a thing or two about the West Coast wrestling scene. Feel free to argue with him -- firstname.lastname@example.org.