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   July 25, 2014



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Some thoughts on The Score/Rogers deal and how it affects WWE shows
By MATTHEW BYER - SLAM! Wrestling


Earlier this week, August 25th, Rogers Communications reached an agreement to purchase sports broadcaster Score Media Inc., the owners of The Score Television Network. As fans in Canada are very much aware The Score is the home of WWE's Monday Night Raw, Smackdown, and other WWE television programs since August 2006. The Score's coverage of WWE has also included the Aftermath television program hosted by Arda Ocal and Renee Paquette, both of whom offer excellent in-depth knowledge and insight into the latest WWE events.

However, with this takeover by Rogers Communications all sorts of speculations on what the impact will be are running rampart. Rumours are swirling that Arda Ocal and Renee Paquette may not be kept on board with The Score and questions have arisen about whether or not Rogers Communications may move some of the WWE programming to one of its other sports oriented television networks.

And nothing has been mentioned about World Wrestling Federation, Inc.'s small ownership position in Score Media Inc. -- believed to be 5% -- and whether it was sold as well.

In an August 26th article by the Globe and Mail, it's been indicated that programs on The Score may be end up being rebranded and refocused, and the entire station could become SportsNet News. Still, in the article Mr. Keith Pelley, the president of Rogers Media has indicated that the television station's content, including its large amount of WWE programming, will remain for now.

This is undoubtedly to allow Rogers Communications time to decide how to best leverage the value in their recent acquisition. After all one of the unique aspects of The Score that makes the station valuable is the irreverent and quirky nature of how the hosts on the station give analysis and opinions on the various sport program including WWE.

Yet there is probably a high likelihood that some of the WWE television programs will eventually be moved. Being Rogers Communications also owns Sportsnet, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet World, not to mention CityTV, all of whom have been part of more basic TV cable packages for some time, if Rogers chooses to move any of the WWE programming it could lead to those programs becoming more widely available to wrestling fans. However, in my opinion, the most likely scenario could be that the flagship Monday Night Raw and Smackdown programs will be moved off The Score leaving them only with WWE NXT, WWE Vintage Collection and the WWE Experience TV programs. If that happens the health of The Score will be very negatively impacted and it's hard to say what the long term health of the network will be as it stands now.

As for the fates of Arda Ocal and Renee Paquette at this time it's very difficult to say what may happen. Both are extremely talented and if Rogers Communications is wise they'll retain both of them. In fact the takeover by Rogers could be a boost for both of their careers as the company may reposition them on one of their higher profile networks such as CityTV or one of the Sportsnet. Or who knows, WWE may snap them up.

However, there is also a chance that Rogers Communications' reason for purchasing The Score is simply to acquire the rights to the various television contracts that the network has and plans to essentially cannibalize it. If that's the plan The Score will likely be shutdown in the next year or two and the higher rated TV programs will be moved over to one of the other networks, but not necessarily the most ideal viewing times. Wrestling fans may be reduced to having to watch Monday Night Raw at midnight to catch up on the latest WWE action because if Rogers Communications takes that approach it will likely not be possible to view many of the WWE shows at the times everyone has become accustomed to.

One additional consequence of this change is that wrestling fans may have to go back to having Monday Night Raw and Smackdown pre-empted by baseball games and other sporting events running long. This was a frequent complaint when Monday Night Raw aired on TSN prior to August 2006.

However, this change does not necessarily mean doom and gloom. During the TSN days of WWE programming on the network, Michael Landsberg's Off The Record TV program frequently interviewed high profile WWE wrestlers and personalities, such as Vince McMahon, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, and many others. We may see Rogers Communications create a similar program and if that's the case it would be an enhancement many wrestling fans would like to see. The Score unfortunately was never able to develop an equivalent program and that may be because of the network's lower profile and inability to attract the stars and personalities to interview -- though Aftermath did its best, and contributor Jimmy Korderas, an ex-WWE referee, was a valuable resource.

It also has to be remembered that due to The Score's CRTC deal, the television network has been limited by how much live programming it can offer and consequently in Ontario and other parts of the country much of the WWE programming is not offered live. Instead, the network during the past six years has been airing Monday Night Raw at a later time, usually starting at 9:15 p.m., and ever since the Monday night program expanded to three hours, it's been airing a full hour and 15 minutes later than the United States. With the recent acquisition by Rogers Communications this may all change as under another one of their other television network CRTC deals there may be more of an allowance for airing additional live programming, such as Monday Night Raw.

So for now the old adage of "please tune in next week to see what happens" will have to apply. The only thing we know for sure is that television landscape will never be the same and some of the changes we'll like and some of them we won't.

RELATED LINKS

  • Previous Mat Matters Editorial columns

    Matthew Byer is a Senior Project Manager who lives and resides in Victoria BC. He hopes Rogers Communications finds a place on one of their television networks for Arda Ocal, Renee Paquette and many of the other talented professionals at The Score who have worked on WWE related programming over the last several years.