NATIONAL CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
SEASON FINALE AND FUTURE OF THE LEAGUE
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2005
The inaugural season of the RealProWrestling league is coming to a close with the season finale Championship episode this weekend. Wrestlers will compete for $250,000 in prize money in seven individual weight classes and the inaugural Championship Team Title.
The championship episode will air Sunday, May 15 on PAX at 4 p.m. ET/ PT, 3 CST/MST (2-hour airing) and will re-air on Fox Sports Net on Wednesdays: May 18 and May 25 at 3 p.m. nationally. (two hour-long airings)
Gary Abbot- Director of Communications for wrestling
Rulon Gardner- 2 X Olympic medalist, commentator and spokesperson for RPW
Lee Gallagher- The Ball Park to speak about the ratings
Gary Abbott: USA Wrestling is the national governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States. We are involved in programs for the youth up to those that compete in the Olympics including Rulon as well as some athletes competing in RPW. RPW has been a positive step forward for the sport of wrestling in the United States and world wide as it become better known across the world with the international broadcasts happening this year.
The large impact RPW offers, is the exposure of the sport of wrestling. Getting the sport out in front of the general public through the Television broadcasts. The RPW program has been amazing and has had a very strong impact since the program was started. The league has done good job promoting individual athletes and telling their personal stories.
The league is also established a record in the Television industry that will help USA Wrestling continue to try and get more and more wrestling on national TV. RPW`s success on television opens up opportunities for all levels of wrestling to get more consideration for television exposure.
The impact to the athletes- The financial support they have been able to receive by competing from RPW is allowing them to concentrate full time on their wrestling. Obviously an athlete who is able to pay his bills and take care of his family will be more motivated and more successful in training and preparation for World and Olympic competition. Our governing body supports the organization and those involved in RPW in a strong fashion.
Rulon Gardner: As an former athlete and someone who enjoys the sport of wrestling, I have been at many differ tournaments around the country and have had many parents come up to me and comment how RPW helped explain the sport of wrestling. RPW helps the kids that are new to the sport of wrestling see the light and gives the kids a future in the sport.
A lot of athletes came out and had a break through season in the 1st RPW. That is hopefully going to catapult them into the 2008 Olympics as well as help them through the National Championships, World Team Trials and Olympic Trials.
On the future of international wrestling- I think the world is scared because they see the caliber of wrestling the Americans are going to bring to the table. RPW is helping the American`s get better. RPW promotes wrestling from the grass roots all the way up to international level. RPW is going to help USA Wrestling to become a leader in the future instead of a follower and take the sport of wrestling to higher and better place and help it earn respect.
Lee Gallagher: RPW introduced a brand new sport and new league on two networks. There were some hurdles on the networks. PAX is not a sport network, so we had to encourage fans to come over to PAX and on FSN our time slot was on a weekday afternoon.
PAX 1st outing 325,000 people 2+, 181,000 households tuned in which is a .2 rating.
Week two, although the numbers decreased, we took a look at the demographics and realized it was due to the loss of boys 2-17. That demographic was looking for a comic book/super hero aspect instead of the sport of wrestling.
After week two, the numbers have steadily increased. Episode 2 reached 118,000 households and has increased each week to week five with 178,000 households. When you look at PAX`s top 41 core markets, RPW is achieving a .2 rating.
What RPW is realizing is that we are reaching the core demographic of men 18-49 and men 25-54.
Fox Sports Net the total house combined average was 325,000 households a week for the first half of the season. Fox Sports Net was averaging a steady .2 rating.
Overall, over five weeks, we have delivered RPW to 1.6 million households by combing PAX and Fox Sports Net.
Fox Sports Net- Over first four episodes RPW dropped in episode three because Fox Sports Net fluctuation in coverage. When reviewing the regions individually RPW did well in Detroit, the Midwest, the North and Northwest averaging a .3-.4 rating.
RPW is now world wide. It was picked up by Euro sport international television broadcasting adding 13 million households. The agreement RPW has made with ESPN Asia, will add distribution to 100 million households.
Chris Chickering: On the grassroots side, RPW was focused on targeting our core audience of 1 million current wrestlers between high school, college and middle school. There are 20,000 wrestling programs across the country. RPW`s direct mail camp was focused on the top 20,000 high school, college and middle school coaches. The direct mail piece was a package including a glossy brochure which explained the league as well as a letter encouraging coaches to promote RPW. RPW produced three million television cards which were distributed through a grassroots effort. The cards went out 200,000 coaches and we got over 800 volunteers of people interested in distributing the information for the league. Over 2,700,000 cards passed out at over 800 wrestling tournaments across the country. We hired a street team company out of LA to target top 100 wrestling events as well as MLB spring training and Arena football.
The radio buys for RPW were 30 / 60 sec spots on ESPN, ESPN 2 and a number of other networks. RPW also took out banner ads in the sports page of USA Today and inserted a full page from letter from Rulon Gardner and Dan Gable explaining the launch of the league and explaining the brand strategy which is family value based entertainment and pure athletic performance. The letter helped to positioning RPW as the one place on the dial where family can tune in with their kids and have a program they can feel proud of and safe watching with their children.
Martin: The production technology and capability of the state of the art television were brought to bear in full force in RPW. The strongest feedback we have received from the public was they saw a level of excitement in the detail and accuracy.
Toby: We have been happy with the progress of RPW has made. We have known for years from USA Wrestling events that the wrestling has been incredible. RPW thought wrestling was an untapped market and that we had ability to bring in, due to technology, creative thinking and excellent problem solving abilities we could create a super product.
Feedback about the level of production-Feedback for RPW to this point has been that the level of the production far exceeded their expectation. The word is out about RPW. We have one million wrestlers in our country and reaching them is not an easy task.
We are excited about the modification of the rules and RPW has shocked a lot of people. The level of action RPW offers and the evolution of the rules have opened the show up for a lot more action.
RPW has only scratched the surface on the background stories. There is a lot more to show to learn about the RPW wrestlers. The wrestlers are family guys that work hard. They are very diverse and we just let them be themselves and tell their stories.
About the future- RPW is please with international people expressing and interest. It is nice to be in a financial situation where we don`t have any debt going in to season two. RPW has talked with multiple televisions broad channels for season two.
RPW has flexibility for the future and we are open to see what happens. We have a time frame and we know what we would like but we have to remain flexible and keep our options open and figure out what is best for RPW. We are excited about the potential of wrestling. RPW has something that is unique and friendly for television. One thing RPW would like to see in the future is RPW on high definition. There are a lot of plans that we have that are still coming on line.
Begin Press Questions.
Question: As far as the development of wrestling as a result of RPW, how much of the input have you taken from the fans as well as other wrestling outlets and applied to the program?
Toby: RPW stared 4 years ago with a concept. With over two years of feedback from the wrestling community, including USA Wrestling, we formed our general direction. From there we continue to listen to the feedback and suggestions and sometimes it is not a matter of what we should do more of how do we implement the vision for the future.
A lot of the feedback RPW did receive was asking for more live matches as opposed to highlights so we adjusted the show to reflect that. Feedback was asking for further clarification on the rules during the show which we inserted into the production starting in week two.
Gary: Everyone involved with wrestling internationally knows there have been dramatic rule changes at the World and Olympic levels. The goal of the federation is to have an exciting sport that is fun to watch on TV and will build interest in the Olympics. Any way that RPW implements improvements on the rules and scoring will be watched, not only by the United States, but other people throughout international wrestling. So the way RPW approaches wrestling in a very creative way to build interest is something that is going to help the sport at all levels.
Toby: There are a lot of styles of wrestling. Each nation has their own folk styles. Many have gone through the process recently of trying to determine how to achieve the best rules of wrestling to make the sport better. RPW is just continuing the process of developing those rules and RPW hopes we have added positive input into that process.
Question: What is your assessment of Eric Larken`s skill set?
Rulon- He has a complete package as an athlete. He just needs to go out there and learn the fine details of international wrestling. Eric, as a specimen, there isn`t anyone more put together as an athlete. Eric just needs to go out and find his strengths in Olympic style wrestling and transfer that to success on the mat by plugging it in against every opponent. You have to be able to put all of the details together in order to defeat every opponent. You have to go back to the basics and realize your potential through practice and preparation. There is no reason why he can`t go out there truly master his ability and be successful, make the Olympic team and win World Championships and the gold medal because he has the complete package.
Question: What has been the reaction from the wrestling fans as far as is there confusion between this league and other professional wrestling leagues? How do people distinguish the difference?
Rulon I did have a few comments from parents that realized it wasn`t the professional wrestling they were used to. RPW is just showing what we can offer. RPW is an opportunity to show the general public the real stuff, the stuff you see during the Olympics. The sport that has been done for thousands of years, we want to share that with them. Is exciting is to hear the amateur wrestling community talking about how excited they are about the league. People are excited to see amateur wrestling on TV once a week compared to once every four years. That is all we ask for which is the opportunity to share our wrestling and what we have done for many years hoping if we share our experiences they will fall in love with the sport like we did.
Question: We have heard about the fans feedback but what have the athletes said?
Toby: Athletes appreciate what we are doing and the feedback is that the kids around the country are really crazy for the new league. Now the crowds at many of the camps are talking about how they watched the wrestlers on TV and ask for their autographs. The wrestlers are being treated like celebrities everywhere they go because they are on TV. The wrestlers have put in their time and they deserve that respect. They have given feedback on the rules to figure out what works best. They like the bio`s but say they would like to see more of that in the future.
Question: What about a Women`s division in the future?
Toby: We have considered it. 95% of wrestlers in the world are men and that is what we are concentrating on right now.
If we were going to start another league, it would be for another style of wrestling, which we have looked at but decided to go with the combined style. We don`t have plans on the books for any additional styles at this time. RPW is going with the best athletes at each weight and if a woman can qualify at one eight class we could more then happy to take her but there aren`t at this point.
Question: What are the qualification criteria?
Toby: We continue directing people to wrestle in the USA Wrestling tournaments. RPW needs to talk to USA Wrestling and determine what to do in the future. Eventually, RPW would like to do a draft where the coaches of the team and the management of each of the teams would select their guys. The possibility of a qualifying tournament might come up that is still to be determined.
RPW is looking at top guys at the USA Wrestling events and selecting from there.
Question: Since most of the wrestlers are involved in many different ways in the sport of wrestling how would you have the wrestlers compete in dual meets?
Toby: RPW is currently looking at the issue of scheduling. We are looking at the schedule to see when we could do the events because we are aware most of the athletes are already involved in wrestling either coaching or in some other fashion. RPW`s vision is to let the wrestlers keep their existing jobs as well as wrestle with us so they don`t` have to choose between one or the other. USA Wrestling and RPW will also work together on coordinating schedules so any RPW events don`t interfere with USA Wresting events.
Question: What is the relationship between FILA and RPW?
Toby: We have talked with them. There have been ups and downs but there is a long way to go. Like any organization, there are going to be difference of opinions within an organization. FILA is a big enough organization that they are trying to figure out how we all work together. We are going to also work with USA Wrestling who is dealing with the relationship with FILA. RPW has met with FILA and talked about how we can work together working together it is a little difficult but we continue to work on the relationship.
Gary: As anyone who works in on international athletic program knows, it is an ongoing process of communication, clarification and change and certainly RPW`s involved on an internationally level. Because they are broadcast all over the world, RPW will help develop more contact with more communication and more negotiations and more discussions with FILA then before they developed the product. USA Wrestling, as the governing body of wrestling, will continue to work with our international federation FILA to represent to them how RPW fits into the wrestling community in our country and around the world.
Question: What is the plan for making internationally wrestlers a part of RPW?
Matt Including international wrestlers is a possibility but our priority. Our priority is to give the U.S. athletes the opportunity first and foremost. We hope with the international broadcast it will open up the possibility to do showcase events in Europe. That is what RPW is thinking about more than bringing the European athletes over here.
Toby One of the reasons to put RPW out there internationally is to allow other countries actually see the product so they can see the product and make decisions if they want to build a regional RPW program from there.
Rulon FILA can analyze what is going on with the rules/styles of RPW and conclude which rules/styles would work.
Toby FILA has good intentions. They want to improve the sport. They want to maximize the sport of wrestling and the potential of wrestling. As long as we have that common ground, everything will work itself out.
Question: World wide plan for RPW?
Toby: RPW would like be big here and then extend into other countries. RPW would eventually like to have a league in each continent. . RPW isn`t about American wrestling it is about world wrestling. We want to max our potential throughout the world.
Question: Comic book plans?
Toby: RPW is currently working on a comic book where our teams, rather then just a team logo, we would go beyond that and tie into the super hero theme with their physique. We would build the characters so their special power is wrestling as opposed to something else like flying. I would like to incorporate these guys at our events like the Claw or Mr. Freeze for the entertainment of the kids. We are still doing some testing and we will try and figure out when that will work out.
Question: What strength has promoting over the internet brought to RPW?
Chris- From a marketing perspective we created strategic partnerships with other wrestling related organizations and companies to do web banner trades or purchasing space on their site. RPW is looking at the web in the future to see how else to use the web to promote the league. RPW`s primary focus is target wrestling specific companies and wrestling spec organizations. RPW`s focus on national TV advertising was hitting core audience as well as cross over audience. In the future RPW is looking to reaching the cross over audience via the web.