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Own the rights?
Actually, WCW only ever had two profitable years. In 1996 Ted Turner merged his entertainment assets with Time-Warner. In the year 2000 Time-Warner had merged with AOL, the dot com bubble burst, and that's all she wrote. Eric Bischoff attempted to purchase the company that year, hoping for Hulk Hogan to put in a large financial stake. Hogan didn't want to take the risk so Eric started a venture with other rich potential buyers. Turner turned them down. That year Ted lost much of his fortune from Internet stocks taking a plunge and his role in the Warner/AOL hierarchy was diminishing. Ultimately by the beginning of 2001 Eric was attempting to purchase WCW again, but when all of WCW's television deals with Turner's networks were put to rest, Eric gave up on his fight for the WCW brand. Vince McMahon and some of his powerful acquaintances then quickly stepped in and brokered a deal to purchase most of WCW's assets from Turner Sports.After hitting financial difficulties, World Championship Wrestling was purchased by rivals the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). Their initial plan was to relaunch WCW as a separate stand-alone promotion, however, due to the rather negative reaction to their Invasion storyline, the WWE finally killed off WCW in the climax of the Invasion storyline at Survivor Series (2001).TLDR - It has nothing to do with ratings or the on-screen product. WCW almost never made money and was only kept alive by Ted Turner himself. It was eventually chewed up and spit out by the Time-Warner/AOL conglomerate. Due to Turner's media empire and business dealings WCW was always doomed to fail.
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