How Patrol Live Helped Bring MLW, Major League Wrestling to Reelz
There’s more audience progression than we think between pro-wrestling and the former “Live PD” – including the guy who founded MLW.
Major League Wrestling debuts tonight on Reelz, the ad-supported cable channel hoping to recreate the impossible. Launched in 2006 as the Reelz Channel, it was best known then as the home of Leonard Maltin’s “Maltin on Movies” and went through several iterations as the host of the Visual Effects Society Awards – none terribly successful until recently. A year ago, it ranked 51st in the prime-time cable advertising demo for adults 25-54.
And then a miracle. On July 22, 2022, Reelz premiered “On Patrol Live,” a revival of the format behind the canceled A&E hit “Live PD.” Today, Reelz ranks 19th and is up 274 percent year-over-year.
“We thought it was going to do well … it just blew everything out of the water,” Reelz VP of programming Steve Cheskin told IndieWire. “And that drags everything down with it.”
Cheskin is wise not to refer to “On Patrol Live” as the return of “Live PD.” For starters, “On Patrol Live” is a new program that right now there’s enough of a difference to keep it at arm’s length from “Live PD” And… there’s an ongoing lawsuit between Big Fish (which produced both shows) and A&E.
A&E canceled “Live PD” in June 2020 amid ongoing protests surrounding the May killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Around the same time, the Austin-American Statesman published a report that “Live PD” producers had destroyed footage of a man arrested and dying in custody in March 2019. (“Live PD” producer Big Fish said he shared the never-aired footage with investigators and then destroyed it, per studio protocol.) A&E ratings have not yet returned.
Courtesy of Reelz
“It’s clear that ‘On Patrol Live’ set us in a different direction,” said Cheskin, who also invented Shark Week for the Discovery Channel. It’s really a different direction. The channel (password: “Stories about the famous and infamous.”) now leans almost exclusively toward crime shows, with key shows like “COPS” (Paramount Network canceled the show around the same time A&E ended its ” Live PD”), “Jail” ”, and his number one show before the “On Patrol Live” days, “Borcolás”.
Some of the most successful “Dissection” episodes focused on professional wrestlers, and the revamped Reelz research department “found it amazing how many of the ‘On Patrol Live’ viewers love wrestling,” Cheskin said.
Among them is Court Bauer, founder and CEO of MLW and an “On Patrol Live” fan. The intersection is even more direct for Biff Lawson, who also produces Major League Wrestling and On Patrol Live.
“In the 10 years I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of different wrestling leagues come over and say they want to be on our network,” Cheskin said. “And I have to say, these guys at MLW were just persistent.”
Plus, “they’re fans of Reelz — like, they really knew our shows,” he continued. “It’s nice when someone who wants to have their show on your network knows your show almost as well as I do.”
Courtesy of MLW
Bauer told IndieWire that he was “in discussions with three Top 25 networks,” including Reelz, about a possible TV deal.
“Ultimately, Reelz believed in MLW and recognized the power of pro wrestling eye contact,” he said. “We’ve been impressed with what the network has done, not only in terms of content, but how they’ve performed overall.”
Both Reelz and MLW declined to disclose to IndieWire whether their contracts include royalties and if the deal is for multiple years.
Reelz is available in over 40 million homes via cable and satellite subscriptions; its library programs are available via streaming in more than 30 million additional homes.
MLW was founded by Bauer in 2002. The current roster includes former WWE wrestlers “The Certified G” Real1 (aka Enzo Amore), John Hennigan (aka John Morrison), MLW World Champion Alex Hammerstone, Women’s Featherweight Champion Taya Valkyrie and Jacob Fatu. .
“MLW Underground Wrestling” airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/7pm PT on Reelz. The pre-taped action will be followed by classic MLW matches at 11 p.m.
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