TNN (standing for The National Network) is a US cable television network, which aired two seasons of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors on American television. At the time of airing Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors, the channel was being branded as The New TNN.
TNN started as a broadcasting company named The Nashville Network, which primarily aired American country music and concerts, alongside some game shows, talk shows and movies. The focus of the company shifted in 1999 to appease younger viewers, and started airing many wrestling programmes, leading to a name change in September 2000 where the abbreviation TNN now stood for "The National Network". For two years, this brand was marketed to viewers as "The New TNN", encompassing the channel's run of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors in 2001-2002. The channel would later be renamed Spike TV in 2003, and Paramount Network in 2018.
Originally, as Robot Wars was growing in popularity, Mentorn had intended for MTV to air a US Series of Robot Wars. After, an advertisement for the series was sent out by the MTV press, looking for eight US competitors. Eventually, a pilot was filmed, with only four competitors after one of the original eight withdrew. However, the pilot never aired, and led to no further production of a series on MTV. While MTV elected not to air the pilot or commission its own series of Robot Wars, the show was later be picked up by TNN; Viacom executives Albie Hecht and Kevin Kay reportedly watched the pilot themselves and considered the show's premise ideal for the latter channel. TNN would go on to produce two seasons of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors for US audiences, in partnership with Mentorn.
In 2000, Viacom sensed redundancy among its TNN and CMT properties and, catalyzed by its acquisition of the rights to World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) programming, decided to refocus TNN. The network was renamed The National Network on September 25 (later The New TNN) and reformatted to compete with TNT, TBS, and USA Network by attracting viewers in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic. Prior to 2000, over half of TNN's viewers were 55-years old and over. Only one third of them were between the ages of 18 and 49, according to Nielsen Media Research. This prompted TNN to focus on targeting "young adult males" with Robot Wars being one of them.
At the time, Hecht and Kay were converting TNN into a pop station, which was soon to broadcast professional wrestling show WWF Raw is War. They felt Robot Wars would be a match for World Wrestling Federation programming, since both shows were considered sports entertainment, a genre where athletics was staged. To further entice WWF fans, Mick Foley, who had then recently retired as a full-time WWF wrestler, was hired as the host of Extreme Warriors. TNN aimed to start broadcasting Extreme Warriors before Raw is War, in order to maximise viewership for the WWF show.
For Extreme Warriors: Season 2, Mentorn selected which robots would participate from applications sent to its website. The majority chosen, such as Snookums, were inexperienced, with many only previously competing in BattleBots for a year maximum. Few BattleBots veterans attempted to join the show; reasons for this included strong ties with the rival robot combat show, and refusal to participate in anything that Steve Plotnicki was associated with. Some that did apply were rejected, including Son of Whyachi, believed to be because Mentorn wanted few machines deeply connected with BattleBots. Of the few veterans that successfully applied (including Todd Mendenhall, Robert Pitzer and Patrick Campbell), most had different reasons for jumping to Robot Wars. Some wanted to join the robot combat show that would prevail, others desired more toy royalties and television exposed they did not receive from BattleBots, and some simply were loyal to neither side. Pitzer and Dan Danknick, however, felt Robot Wars would ultimately prevail over BattleBots in the United States.
- "Trey is trying to prove something to his dad, but the writing is on the wall now. Robot Wars will come into the United States with Viacom's backing and Comedy Central won't matter. I'm making friends here. I'm trying to bring Team Raptor into every aspect of this sport. I don't owe anybody anything. I've spent tons, and nobody is really paying us back completely yet"
- — Robert Pitzer
Following criticism from British roboteers over the production company's lack of treatment to them, Mentorn responded by generally adhering to the needs of the American teams. This included providing three daily meals free of charge, situated in double-decker buses that contained booths and tables. The Robot Wars technical crew and production staff also assisted the teams, by providing the robots with specialised 40-Mhz radios, and failsafes. Each team also received $2,000 for competing.
A third series of Extreme Warriors was hinted at on the official Robot Wars website, and would have been filmed sometime after or during The Sixth Wars. It is unknown whether the idea was fully implemented or it was cancelled before filming could start.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports
- ↑ WWF press release stating that its fans would be enticed to watch Extreme Warriors
- ↑ C21Media article announcing Extreme Warriors would be broadcast before WWF Raw is War