Eric Bischoff, the former President of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), recently spoke about the challenges the company faced when they expanded their flagship show, Monday Nitro, from two hours to three.
In a podcast episode of “83 Weeks Later,” the former WWE and WCW man shared his thoughts on the decision and how it ultimately affected the company.
Bischoff first addressed the misconception that expanding Nitro to three hours resulted in more money for the company.
He explained that despite the longer show, WCW didn’t receive any additional pay or license fees from Turner Broadcasting, unlike the current deal that the company AEW has with Turner.
Bischoff also added that he and other executives didn’t get a chance to vote on the decision to expand the show, as it was a directive given by higher-ups.
“‘Even though you made more money going three hours’ – No, we didn’t. Well, I didn’t. We didn’t get an extra nickel. First of all, we didn’t get paid for Nitro anyway. There were no licence fees. Did Turner Broadcasting pay WCW like Turner pays AEW?
That wasn’t the case. All I got was a phone call saying, ‘Alright, we’re gonna go from two hours to three hours. Buckle up, let’s do it.’ That was it. That was a conversation I didn’t get to vote on.
However, Bischoff and other executives were aware of the challenges that came with producing a three-hour weekly wrestling show.
Bischoff acknowledged that creatively, it was much harder to maintain the audience’s attention and produce quality content over a longer period of time.
The addition of the Thunder program further compounded the issue, as it quadrupled the impact of the already diluted product.
And the Thunder issue, same thing. I didn’t get to vote. But we knew, all of us knew, not just me, all of us knew that by going three hours, what were we in effect doing?
We were diluting our product. Yeah, it is much harder creatively to produce a three-hour wrestling show every week than it is a two-hour wrestling show every week. It’s hard to keep the audience satisfied over that extended period of time.
Despite the challenges, Bischoff and his team at WCW attempted to make the three-hour format work.
They made several changes to the show, including more backstage segments, new match formats, and a focus on storytelling. However, despite their best efforts, the longer format proved to be too much, and the ratings began to decline.
Looking back, Bischoff admitted that he and the other executives knew that expanding Nitro to three hours would be a challenging task.
They had lengthy conversations about the potential ramifications and tried to talk Ted Turner out of the decision. Still, ultimately, the decision was made, and they had to adapt to the new format.
We knew that, I knew that. And then add to that Thunder, which quadrupled that impact, that effect. Now we’re really deluding ourselves. We knew going in, I certainly did, so did Brad Siegel, so did everybody else who tried to talk Ted Turner out of going with Thunder.
Eventually, the move to three hours became too much. WCW needed to increase their ratings to make the move more viable.
They failed to do this, and bounced around with new heads of creative, once Bischoff was sacked in September 1999.
Other names that took the role of booker in WCW at this time include Kevin Sullivan, Vince Russo and Kevin Nash.
However, none of them could stop WCW going under, and being purchased by Vince McMahon and the WWF in 2001.
Please credit “83 Weeks” and give a HT to Atletifo for transcription, if you use any quotes from this article.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.