With the announcement of ROH’s weekly program moving from one Sinclair managed digital station (Comet TV) to another (Charge!TV), it seems like as good a time as any to consider ROH’s prospects for a national cable television run in 2018. ROH has had two runs on national cable television thus far: HDNet (now known as AXS) from 2009-2011 and a six-month run on Destination America. At the time, Jim Cornette had a wonderful suggestion for the DA run: produce a new show for the network and give it your all to see what happens (in a podcast interview, he had already been relieved of his ROH duties in 2012). Unfortunately, budgets and reality may have played a part in the opposite occurring: The same syndicated program that was already being run was just re-aired. The ratings stunk.
I believe for ROH not only to get another slot on national cable, but to stick on the air, they have to produce a new show for whatever station agrees to air the program. The syndicated and cable shows would work in tandem to support each other (Think WCW Turner broadcasts and syndication in the early 1990’s). Angles can be built on the cable network to culminate in syndication and vice versa. A syndicated package that is said to have around 500,000 weekly viewers would be a nice start to supporting a decent cable rating. Providing your most ardent fans with a cable rerun will not work. Now for the speculation. What stations might have an interest in the program? I believe there are 4 that stand out among hundreds of stations
WGN America. Sinclair is going through the process of purchasing Tribune. If the purchase is completed, ROH and WGN will be in the same extended corporate family. WGN is already transitioning to inexpensive programming. What else but pro wrestling draws ratings and is inexpensive?
Pop TV. Impact Wrestling has aired on Pop for nearly two years. Impact is said to be exploring their television options and if Pop is happy with their wrestling timeslot, it may open up an opportunity for ROH. If wrestling on the station is a barter deal, as has been rumored, ROH is already familiar with that arrangement based upon their relationship with Sinclair stations.
AXS. Hello, my old friend. What a difference a few years makes. ROH on HDNet seemed to gain no traction, whereas New Japan is reported as attracting 200,000 viewers and has serious buzz. ROH was reported to have explored this avenue since New Japan began airing on the station, suggesting block type programming with New Japan, but rumor had it that there was not interest in another partnership on the network end.
The Paramount Network (Spike). Spike has moved away from a focus-solely on men to reach a wider swath of viewers but still has Bellator. PBC Boxing will no longer continue on the network, which might open up shoulder programming that draws ratings, such as wrestling, to support their MMA investment.
What station, if any, do you think ROH will land on in 2018?
Full disclosure: I am a Sinclair Broadcast Group shareholder.
Lavie Margolin has been a professional wrestling fan since 1988 and has attended ROH shows regularly since 2004. Lavie is currently completing his latest book, Trumpmania (examining Donald Trump’s 30 year involvement in the world of professional wrestling). If you’d like to be informed when the book is launched in 2018, sign up here. Tweet me @Laviemarg