Originally created 12/01/99

Coke pulls advertising from WWF complaints

ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola has withdrawn its advertising from the World Wrestling Federation, citing concerns with the company's often lewd language and story lines.

Atlanta-based Coke, however, continues to advertise with WWF's main rival, World Championship Wrestling, a subsidiary of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System, which also is based in Atlanta.

Coke ended its two-year advertising relationship with the WWF the week of Oct. 18.

"It crossed the line in terms of content, particularly in terms of language and story lines," Coke spokesman Bob Bertini said today, declining to discuss any specific programs or routines. "It's not about wrestling. Specifically, it's about the WWF's programming content."

Coke's decision comes as a conservative California group pressures advertisers to drop WWF programs, which feature performers such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H and the Undertaker.

The Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council is urging people to write companies advertising on WWF programs, which are seen in 120 countries in nine languages.

WWF Chairman Vince McMahon blasted Coke's decision as "discriminatory, hypocritical, and an affront to free speech."

The WWF said the time dropped by Coke "was immediately replaced by advertisers at premium rates."

Bertini said Coke did "not have the same content issues with the WCW" and that the location of its corporate headquarters was not an issue in Coke's decision.

"But we monitor the WCW the same as we do all of our advertisers. It only makes business sense," he said.

The Parents Television Council was started in 1995 as a project of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog organization founded by L. Brent Bozell III. The council releases an annual "family guide" to prime-time network broadcasting and campaigns against programs it deems offensive.

Bertini said Coke had received letters from people affiliated with the council, but that those did not solely influence the WWF decision. He declined to say how much Coke spent on its wrestling marketing.

"We heard from the council, but that was not the determining factor in this case," he said. "We'd been monitoring the WWF for some time."

The WWF's Monday night cable television program, "RAW is WAR," draws about 6 million viewers each week.

In an August regulatory filing for its IPO, the Stamford, Conn., company listed profits of $56 million and revenues of $251.5 million in fiscal year 1999. The WWF said 5 million households purchased its pay-per-view programs this year, bringing in revenues of $150 million.


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