Fighting

(Part 1) Pop President Brad Schwartz discusses TNA Impact Wrestling

Fans celebrate the Hardy Boys (Jeff and Matt) winning TNA tag team gold at the Impact Zone at Universal Studios Orlando. TNA Impact Wrestling will make its Pop debut live at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Pop is formerly TV Guide Channel. Your referee is Brian Stiffler.
Fans celebrate the Hardy Boys (Jeff and Matt) winning TNA tag team gold at the Impact Zone at Universal Studios Orlando. TNA Impact Wrestling will make its Pop debut live at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Pop is formerly TV Guide Channel. Your referee is Brian Stiffler. Photo By Jim Varsallone

(Part 1) Brad Schwartz, the president of Pop, discusses the acquisition of TNA Impact Wrestling to Pop, formerly TV Guide Channel.

“[TNA President] Dixie [Carter] and the Impact team were looking for a new home for their series,” said Schwartz during a recent phone interview. “They had huge success on Spike. Millions of viewers watching every week, and they really enjoyed that success.

“In switching to another network [Destination America] which didn’t have the distribution that Spike had, they obviously noticed a little bit of a hit to the success that they had.”

In the United States, Spike’s reach is approximately 90 million homes.

Destination America about 60 million.

Pop is about 80 million.

Schwartz continued: “So [TNA was] actively looking for a new television partner, and I think made the rounds and met with a lot of cable networks to see where a home might be.

“We were on their list of calls, and they came in [about a couple of months ago], and we had our entire team meet with them and listen to the pitch and listen to what they wanted to do -- where they saw the company going, where they saw [pro wrestling] going. That’s how it came to our attention.

“We had a lot of people in that meeting -- our marketing team, our programming team, our communications team, our research team. We really wanted everybody to hear it. We even had representatives from CBS and Lionsgate in that meeting, so everybody could hear it firsthand.”

Pop is a joint venture of CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) and Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF). The partnership combines CBS’s programming, production and marketing assets with Lionsgate’s resources in motion pictures, television and digitally delivered content.

Meeting with Pop, CBS and Lionsgate execs and personnel, Carter and crew made a big impression.

“I would say the next day we [Pop, CBS, Lionsgate] were all like, ‘We got to do this,’” Schwartz said. “I’m not spinning this in any way. It’s the truth. When we knew this meeting was happening, there were people like me. I grew up watching wrestling, and I remember going to WrestleMania, and I had my own wrestling name, when I was younger, when we joked around in the basement.”

Schwartz then chuckled, when asked to divulge the name, and declined further comment on it, reverting to his original commentary.

“To my point, half the people [from Pop, CBS, Lionsgate] who walked into the meeting knew about wrestling and grew up with it or had some sort of relationship with it, and I think maybe half the room walked in a little skeptical of wrestling.”

The turning point.

“Dixie is so impressive, and she’s such an amazing spirit with a good, positive energy to her,” Schwartz said. “By the end of the meeting, she had won everyone in the room over, and the next day it was unanimous, ‘Let’s do this.’

“Then, it was a matter of can we get it?”

Pop got it.

“This goes back to the brand direction that we want to have,” Schwartz said. “When CBS bought the other half of this network and created a joint venture with Lionsgate, and then they hired me to run it, we knew we needed to re-brand the business and create something that was differentiated and fresh and new.

“Whew we did all our research about how to create a brand that felt different than any other brand that was out there but stay in the pop culture space, what came screaming out of all the research was this emotion of fandom. Fans today don’t sit on the outskirts of pop culture, poking fun at it. They live right in the middle of it, and they love it, and there’s an enthusiasm there, and there’s a spirit there and an optimism there. If you can bottle that up and create a media brand out of it, you would have something that’s very different than other pop culture brands -- that might look at things a little snarkily or look at things more from an affluent perspective or an urban perspective or a paparazzi perspective. That was a fresh perspective to look at the world.

“And then you ask yourself, ‘Does it work?’ Well, I think Ellen [DeGeneres] is very much like that. She kind of looks at the world like a fan, and I think Jimmy Fallon is very much like that. He looks at the world like a fan. So we knew that there was something going on in culture about his fandom. Coachella is so big it went to two weekends.”

The Coachella Valley Music and Festival is an annual music and arts festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., in the Coachella Valley.

Schwartz continued: “Comic-Con has never been bigger. There are shows on TV like ‘Talking Dead’ that do nothing but talk about another show. We live in this world now that is connected through social media, that people are connected to other people with shared passions, whether you know them or not.

“One of our taglines here is that we’re fans, too, and so what came clearly across in the [TNA] presentation -- to bring this full circle -- is that wrestling fans are just some of the most passionate of anything. I remember being that way myself, when I was very much into wrestling. In some ways, when you see the crowd shots at a wrestling show, that was a bigger selling point to us than the ring shots.”

At wrestling shows, fans cheer, boo, chant, yell, stand, make signs and dress the part.

Schwartz said: “Whether it’s Coachella or whether it’s Comic-Con or whether it’s the New Kids on the Block or whether it’s ‘Walking Dead,’ if we’re going to be a channel for fans, why can’t these amazing wrestling fans fit into that circle.”

Wrestling fans are fanatical, passionate and very active on social media, and that pleases Pop.

“Our Pop TV trended for 12 hours on Twitter just based on our press release [announcing TNA on Pop],” Schwartz said. “There’s not even with any [TNA] content on the [Pop] air, yet, but when we announced this partnership, we trended nationally on Twitter for that many hours. It just kind of proved every reason why we did this. We celebrate fans. We celebrate their passions, and we cheer for their passions, and wrestling fans are pretty passionate.”

That is very true. They will let you know how they feel -- sometimes good and sometimes not so.

“We have a term that we actually registered for the audience that we’re targeting that we call the modern grown-ups,” Schwartz said. “It’s not really so much a demographic as it is a pyschographic. It’s people who live with emotion of youth. They want to stay connected with their emotion of youth...the heart of a fan. That emotion that comes with it. It’s not so much people in their 40s, people in their 30s, people in their 20s. It’s do you have that fandom personality, that thing that keeps you connected to the emotion of youth.”

Viewers can find Pop’s channel number by visiting

www.poptv.com

(Upcoming - Part 2 with Pop President Brad Schwartz)

- TNA tickets on sale

Following the announcement of IMPACT WRESTLING moving to Pop beginning in 2016, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling will return to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pa. for five action-packed nights of television events, beginning with the live broadcast debut of IMPACT WRESTLING on Pop at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The tapings continue Wednesday, Jan. 6 and Thursday, Jan. 7 with Friday, Jan. 8, and Saturday, Jan. 9 featuring One Night Only pay-per-views and international television shows.

Tickets, which start at $10 (no additional fees), are on sale and can be purchased at sandseventcenter.com, the Event Center box office, ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 800-745-3000.

A limited number of VIP packages, which include a front-row ringside seat and special meet-n-greet session with photo and autograph opportunities, are available for $75 at shoptna.com.

IMPACT WRESTLING features some of the world’s top athletes, including Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, Jeff and Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Ethan Carter III, Drew Galloway, Bobby Roode, Gail Kim and the lovely and lethal TNA Knockouts, and the high-flying risk-taking X-Division including Tigre Uno.

For up-to-date information, go to

impactwrestling.com/events.

TNA schedule

at Sands Bethlehem Event Center

6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7

7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8

7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9

- Pop for TNA

Pop, a network that celebrates the excitement of being a fan, will soon become the exclusive U.S. television home of IMPACT WRESTLING, the hard-hitting, high-flying global sports sensation enjoyed by millions of fans around the world.

Pop (formerly TV Guide Channel) will premiere IMPACT WRESTLING with a live two-hour, action-packed broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 5, and the show will continue to air every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The show features some of the biggest stars in professional wrestling, including Jeff and Matt Hardy, EC3, Kurt Angle, Bobby Lashley, The Wolves, Eric Young, Tigre Uno and Gail Kim.

“Wrestling has been a fan-fueled staple since the ‘50s, and continues to be some of the most-watched appointment television today. The die-hard fandom and extraordinary passion surrounding IMPACT WRESTLING captures the spirit of Pop as a network that celebrates fan-driven entertainment and excitement,” Brad Schwartz, president of Pop, said in a release. “We’re committed to this new partnership and psyched to bring the show’s loyal fans a dedicated night to watch their favorite show on Pop every week.”

IMPACT WRESTLING is a strong global brand seen on networks in more than 120 countries around the world and broadcast in 17 languages. Its fans are some of the most devoted and socially active in sports, with more than 15 million aggregated social media followers and nearly 700 million video views on YouTube, making it the seventh-most-viewed sports channel, ahead of MLB, NHL, MLS and FIFATV.

“Pop’s enthusiasm for our partnership and the network’s fan focus is a perfect fit for our company,” said TNA President Dixie Carter. “Wresting has always been at the forefront of pop culture with the most passionate, loyal fan base. We’re thrilled to be in business with Pop and to bring IMPACT WRESTLING to more than 80 million homes.”

To find IMPACT WRESTLING on Pop, go to

http://poptv.com.

Pop on the Web: poptv.com

Pop Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PopTelevision

Pop Twitter: https://twitter.com/PopTV

Pop Instagram: @poptv

- About Pop

Fans don’t sit at the outskirts of pop culture making snarky comments. They live right smack in the middle of it, sharing, creating, and connecting their passions with others. At Pop, fans finally have a destination that celebrates the fun of being a fan. Fans aren’t even fans anymore — they’re gladiators, tributes, human beings and blockheads.

Seen in more than 80 million homes, Pop gives fans a dedicated channel that loves being a fan as much as they do. A channel that respects talent over celebrity. A channel filled with optimism, passion, humor, and excitement. A channel that understands the fun doesn’t stop when the credits roll… it’s really just the beginning.

Pop is a joint venture of CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) and Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF). The partnership combines CBS’s programming, production and marketing assets with Lionsgate’s resources in motion pictures, television and digitally delivered content.

Pop’s ownership structure is comprised of the company with the #1 broadcast network and many of the top first-run syndication series (“Entertainment Tonight,” “The Insider”) and the studio that produces and distributes the blockbuster “Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Divergent” franchises and produces such award-winning TV series as “Mad Men” and “Orange is the New Black.”

- About TNA

TNA Entertainment, LLC, is a privately held sports entertainment company represented by United Talent Agency and based in Nashville, Tenn., specializing in television properties, events, products, merchandise and music, as well as the management and promotion of professional wrestlers.

The roster features such greats as Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, EC3, Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, Bobby Roode, Mr. Anderson, Drew Galloway, the high-flying X-Division and the lovely and lethal Knockouts, through its highly successful flagship IMPACT WRESTLING weekly broadcast, which will begin airing in 2016 on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Pop network.

The product is the world’s most innovative experience in professional wrestling and is broadcast in more than 120 countries.

For information, visit www.IMPACTWRESTLING.com or follow @IMPACTWRESTLING and @TNADixie on twitter.

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