TNA Wrestling may be without a home soon.
TMZ first reported on Sunday (with multiple wrestling news outlets following) that Spike TV would not be renewing its contract to show Impact Wrestling on Thursday nights at 9 p.m.
Spike TV officials reportedly told TNA President Dixie Carter last week that the contract would not be renewed. The current deal runs through October, and it isn’t clear yet when the show is expected to stop airing on the network.
However, both Spike and Carter on Monday indicated that negotiations still were ongoing. Still, reports were saying that Spike had waning interest in continuing to broadcast Impact.
Both sides reportedly have reasons to get out of the contract.
A rumor circulated that TNA wanted to leave Spike TV because of a lack of commitment and advertisement. Another rumor was that Spike was not happy that Vince “Sports Entertainment Extreme” Russo still had involvement with the company (this seems somewhat less likely).
Spike also apparently is interested in moving toward broadcasting more reality shows, which are much less expensive to produce.
Impact has been on Spike since 2005.
Things may look hopeless for the company from a certain standpoint, but all is not lost. For one, this could be a nonstory and TNA stays on Spike (and Impact certainly fits the Spike audience mold).
It wouldn’t be the first time the company lost its cable slot. In 2004, TNA moved away from holding weekly pay-per-views when it got a cable deal with Fox Sports. This led to the creation of Impact. However, the deal lasted for less than a year and was not renewed.
Without a cable company to call home, the company aired Impact through webcasts. Could this happen again as a placeholding-type scenario? It’s possible, especially given the big advancements in web streaming since then. The company still will get money from Bob Carter and Panda Energy. I’m not sure how advertising or sponsors would work in that situation, though. And, we know hardcore TNA fans follow the program online, but what about the casual fan who watches it sometimes because it’s on? The power is simply being able to flip the TV on and watch a program cannot be overstated. Comparably, it takes a little more effort to seek something out online.
In April, TNA signed with the United Talent Agency specifically to help widening its broadcasting reach. This means that TNA already has been shopping around for other networks. There are few wrestling programs in existence, so the show already would bring in decent ratings (obviously, they would be nothing like ratings in the late 1990s, but they would be serviceable).The program would fit on channels like CMT or WGN.
TNA is said to be more successful than WWE in the United Kingdom, and the annual winter trip across the pond always is fun. Could the company change its structure, move to the UK and focus most of its energy overseas? Highly unlikely. Every employee would have to relocate to the UK, which has a higher cost of living and higher taxes. They all would have to get work visas. Jeff Hardy, one of the company’s top stars, seemingly cannot get a visa to work there (he sits out every English road trip). If the company moves, it would need to offer relocation assistance. Even if the company moves, would an increased European market help it financially? Even if this helps the company, it still would have a decent-sized American fan base that would be left without a show to watch.
Perhaps Global Force Wrestling, the new venture by Jeff Jarrett (who I think still is a TNA shareholder), could assist.
TNA has gone through a rough patch over the last year, with stars such as AJ Styles and Sting leaving, as well as old hands like Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian parting ways with the company. Producing TV on the road failed after a few months.
Ratings have been low for years, but the most recent edition of Impact was reported to have 1.4 million viewers. Supposedly, this is the largest amount of viewers since February.
Without some of its old stars, TNA has been working on developing new talent and bringing new guys in. It even brought back the six-sided ring, which was an innovation that came with coming to Spike.
I really don’t see this as the death knell for TNA. It has too many options in front of it to completely fail. However, there are always rumors about Bob Carter and his wife, Janice, being unwilling to continue to finance their daughter’s playpen. TNA director of creative writing Dave Lagana reportedly approached Ring of Honor about employment after hearing about the contract situation. “They” say backstage morale is at an all-time low roughly twice a month.
My advice is to remain cautiously optimistic. Watch Impact when you can, and definitely buy some merch. TNA DVDs are a thing of beauty, and I don’t want to think about the day when we get to watch a WWE-centric DVD titled “The Rise and Fall of TNA.”