Sunday, August 5, 2012

IMPACT/Spike: Is it Time for TNA to Move On?

While a child is in the process of growing up, they depend on their parents. Their parents give them the support and attention that they need to help them on their path to becoming able and independent. Eventually, the time comes when that child is ready to move forward to a bigger stage in life, where the only way to do so is by leaving the nest.

This is reminiscent of the current relationship between TNA and Spike. For almost seven years now, Spike has been the home of TNA's, "IMPACT WRESTLING" program. During that time period, "IMPACT" has expanded from one hour to two hours, and has given the network it's highest ratings, which grow every year.

However, TNA's ultimate goal was never to become the highest rated program on Spike- it's goal is to become the number one pro-wrestling company in the industry. The key to attaining that goal is having competitive ratings, and no matter what the quality is of the TNA product, that will never happen as long as TNA calls Spike their home.

No doubt the Monday Night Wars of 2010 is still fresh in everyone's minds. Not long after TNA brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to help take them to another level, TNA went head to head with WWE, with Spike placing, "IMPACT WRESTLING" in the same Monday night slot as WWE's "RAW" program. At first glance, the move made sense. With the biggest name in pro-wrestling history and one of best business minds combined with a young and talented roster, TNA was presenting a product comparable to WCW, which dominated WWE for 84 weeks in a row during direct competition.

However, the outcome during the TNA-WWE Monday Night War was very different. "RAW" defeated, "IMPACT WRESTLING" every week in the ratings, and their numbers were very far apart. Fingers were quickly pointed at TNA, with claims that the product was to blame. Yet, close inspection will show that as long as as, "IMPACT WRESTLING" remains on Spike, they will always be in the shadow of WWE and, "RAW".

According to NBC Universal (the owner of USA Network, 115 million is the exact amount of U.S. homes that have USA Network available. Spike on the other hand (according to every press release that they distribute) is available in 98.7 million homes. This is a much different scenario from the WCW-WWE Monday Night War, where their programs were on TNT and USA Network respectively, two networks that were in an equal amount of homes.

With that in mind, since Spike has already stated that, "IMPACT WRESTLING" is their highest rated program, TNA has already gained as much as it possibly can by calling Spike their home network. And with the recent announcement that WWE will be debuting a new program this Fall on Ion Television (a network that can even be viewed by those who do not have cable), now may the time for TNA to seek an additional outlet for programming.

It's worth mentioning that in the world of dirtsheets and dirtsites, it has often been stated that along with providing TNA with airtime, they also assist TNA financially in terms of helping to cover the costs for, "IMPACT WRESTLING" events that take place on the road, and paying the highest earning talents on the TNA payroll. Unless Spike or a TNA employee confirms or denies, this must be classified as a rumor. However, in the event that it is true, it would justify TNA remaining with Spike as long as the network will have them. It's a rare case for a network to cover the costs for a wrestling promotion in any fashion. The only known times were when TNT covered the production costs for, "WCW Monday Nitro" (since they were the beneficiary of the program) and when HDNet covered the production costs for, "Ring of Honor Wrestling".

Assuming that TNA/Panda Energy is solely responsible for the costs of production and contracts, the question remains- if TNA were to part ways with Spike (or for the time being at least, gain an additional programming avenue), where should they go? It should be a network available in at least the same amount of homes as USA Network, to put them on a more level playing field with WWE. It should also be a network that would be willing to place TNA's style of programming in a primetime slot. In my opinion, the perfect network for, "IMPACT WRESTLING" or any other TNA program is FOX.

You may be thinking- "TNA was on FOX before, and they didn't do well." In a way, you are correct. TNA was on FOX Sports Net for about a year, and their average rating was 0.3. However, keep in mind that the TNA of that time period (2004 - 2005) is very different from the TNA of today. Jeff Hardy is much more popular now than he was when he was with TNA at that time. TNA now has the name values of Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Sting, and Mr. Anderson. TNA originals such as AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Samoa Joe, and Abyss have increased in popularity over the years. Creative direction has changed- Eric Bischoff is involved with TNA creatively, and out of everyone who has had a hand in the creative direction of TNA over the past 10 years, Bischoff has the best track record, even if you only include his work in TNA.

Adding TNA to their programming would be a beneficial move for FOX. Currently, they air UFC in their Saturday primetime slot. When both TNA and UFC were on Spike, TNA garnered the higher ratings between the two. Taking this into consideration, if FOX aired TNA in a primetime slot, it appears that they would likely bring in better ratings than UFC currently does.