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August 25, 2006

Fake Press Release Fuels Sci Fi/Wrestling Fan Clash

The war with Sci Fi Channel fans conflicting with wrestling fans continue, this time with a fake press release making it on PR Web before being taken down.

According to Joel Keller over at TV Squad, the press release, which has already been removed from PR Web, stated that Sci Fi Channel, in keeping with the immense success of the ECW pro wrestling programming thath as been airing on it, will be changing its name to SurgeTV, to distance itself from the science fiction genre.

Keller guesses that it might be an angry sci fi fan who is looking to lash out against the wrestling takeover of Tuesday nights (ECW airs in the 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. timeslot on the Sci Fi Channel. Conversely, pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer indicates it could be the reverse, a wrestling fan looking to anger the sci fi fans who have been less than accomodating about the new programming on the network.

Apparently, the press release--which was pulled before I ever got the chance to see it--stated that the station had a "changing demographic," and was looking to air more professional wrestling, including putting the stars of some of its other shows in the ring and bringing over Mexican wrestling events to debut in the English-language. As some fans pointed out, this immediately invalidated the press release, as if its improbable nature didn't already, because WWE has a deal in place with NBC Universal to be its only pro wrestling provider. The press release also claimed that the network would be distancing itself from the "ner demographic," giving some creedence to the anti-Sci Fi hypothesis Meltzer made.

As Keller writes, The Nashville Network's short morphing into Spike TV is proof that such a change is possible, but this particular announcement is nothing more than a prank, it appears.

On the other hand, the war between the wrestling fans and the network fans continues. As mentioned here when I first wrote about it a couple of months ago, WWE looked to launch the ECW brand, but the USA Network did not have room for another wrestling show on its schedule. Instead, it helped WWE strike a deal with Sci Fi, its sister network, for a live Tuesday night show for the new wrestling brand. The deal was only to be temporary, to see how ratings would develop, but there was initially a lot of tension between the network and the wrestling promotion, not between the two companies but between the two fan bases.

In wrestling camps, news leaked out that Sci Fi wanted to change the content of ECW, to make it more "science fiction." Wrestling fans don't particularly care what network their show airs on, just the quality of the show, so they were angered by such implications that Sci Fi wanted to add aliens or zombies to their show. In fact, ECW made fun of it on its first night, bringing a zombie character to the ring, only to have him be caned by an ECW legend, The Sandman.

On the other hand, Sci Fi Channel fans do care about what programming airs on their channel and have been very resistent to ECW's airing, making snide remarks across the blogosphere and organizing fan community complaining sessions, such as what follows in the comments here in this story. Much as wrestling fans were angered by the network's potential interference with the quality of their show, Sci-Fi fans were angered by wrestling interfering with their science fiction lineup. Although ECW is a cult wrestling brand, it isn't exactly science fiction, is it? Fans wanted to protect what they saw as the brand DNA of their network.

But ECW on Sci Fi hasn't been a flop, as I wrote about last month. In fact, it's their highest-rated program, and the only hangup between the two companies on signing a long-term deal at this point has been haggling over rights fees. ECW has increased Sci Fi's performance in the ratings significantly. And, as some fans point out, the wrestling programmings' success does help ensure that Sci Fi will be able to continue producing quality science fiction programming throughout the rest of the network, with increased ratings numbers to brag about network-wide.

One person who appeared to be a wrestling fan tried to extend the olive branch in the war between the two fan bases in the comments section on Keller's story, pointing out that wrestling attracted a nerd demographic as well and could potentially be seen as fitting in on Sci Fi in that way.

A science fiction fan wrote back, "If by 'nerdy' you mean 'moronic' and by 'Sci-Fi nerd demographic' you mean 'slobber-drooling mouthbreather demographic', you're absolutely right." Well, I don't know what a mouthbreaker is, but I'm assuming the war between the two fan bases will continue. Maybe we will have to take this one into the ring...and wrestling fans have an advantage there, I guess.

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