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WWF Swallows WCW

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. Friday said it bought World Championship Wresting (WCW) from AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting Systems, consolidating the homes of "The Rock" and Hulk Hogan under one umbrella.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but analysts had estimated that WCW lost about $80 million last year.

The purchase comes after a deal between Turner Broadcasting and Fusient Media Ventures for the WCW unit struck in January fell apart, a World Wresting Federation (WWF) spokesman said.

The deal gives WWF global rights to the WCW brand, tape library and other intellectual property rights.

New WCW programming is expected to air on TNN in the future to keep with the franchise's strategic alliance with Viacom Inc. [Viacom is the parent company of both TNN and CBS.]

Possible cross-branded storylines could start as early as Monday night during WWF Raw Is War on TNN and the final performance of WCW Monday Nitro Live on Turner Network (TNT), WWF said in a statement.

"We think the WCW has found its proper home now," Turner spokesman Jim Weiss said. The WCW had planned to stop production after Monday night's event in Panama City Beach, Fla.

WWF, which also owns the XFL in a partnership with NBC, said that new WCW programming will air on cable TV's The National Network in the near future.

The WWF also assumes WCW's multimillion dollar contracts with performers including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Goldberg.

They could join WWF stars such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Chyna, a Playboy centerfold and best-selling author.

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, the two companies battled for ratings and popular success as fans often favored one before returning to watch the other. But in the late 1990s, as the WCW's performers aged and its talent-development efforts lagged, the WWF began to regularly trounce Turner.

The decision to scrap pro wrestling marked the end of a 30-year era for TBS. It was one of the first major programming decisions made by Jamie Kellner, Turner's new chief executive.

He assumed control of Turner when AOL Time Warner merged the company's channels — TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, the Cartoon Network and all of the CNN networks — into the WB network. Kellner helped establish the WB in 1993.

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