There’s been a lot of doom-mongering about the future of TNA wrestling lately. For those of you who don’t follow the ins and outs of the company’s finances, or wrestling politics for that matter: things are looking a bit grim. But I wouldn’t be placing bets on its demise just yet.
In short, they’re not generating the advertising revenue Spike TV wants, so their contract for US network TV officially came to an end a short time ago. Yes, this is a major revenue stream. Yes, they have had to cancel any live shows that weren’t being used for TV tapings. But this situation needs putting in context.
Firstly, they are still pulling some of Spike’s biggest audiences. The advertising revenue issue is a problem all network TV has due to people watching on on-demand services and skipping the ad’s. This means that live sports are the TV jackpot. For some reason, going out live either didn’t remain viable for long, or didn’t produce the hoped-for results for TNA and Spike. However, wrestling is a virtually-guaranteed million viewers, and that’s not to be sniffed at in a saturated TV market. So Impact has been moved from Thursday, where it was up against live sports, to Wednesday. Negotiations with Spike are, last I heard, ongoing.
TNA has been here before. In fact, WWE (specifically Raw) has been here before. At least Viacom (Spike’s owners) have been careful not to release any damaging statements (an action that weakened WWE’s position in TV negotiations in the past). TNA have recorded shows that will take Impact up to sometime in December or January, so doubtlessly their position with Spike and other interested parties will depend on how they fare on Wednesdays over the next few weeks. One thing has to be said, though: Unlike WWE, TNA are not publically listed, so chaos won’t come from a sudden collapse in share price if a TV deal goes belly-up. And, crucially, US network TV is not TNA’s only revenue stream; Impact has been sold to 15 other broadcasters worldwide.
Honouring contracts that include a pay-per-view show each month has already meant that TNA have had to produce special shows for international broadcasters while they wind down their actual pay-per-view cable broadcasts in America. So, if a US TV deal is not forthcoming, the most likely scenario is this: Impact will probably continue to be made, and shown in the US on their on-demand website. It happened this way when Fox Sports Net dropped Impact in 2005. With a UK tour coming up, the cheapest way to produce episodes may be to tape the whole tour as they did at the beginning of this year. This would cover them for 6 weeks from the end of January, meaning that, at most, they will have to do a couple of US dates just to cover a TV gap at the start of the year. TNA is not dead and buried yet (but it appears to be very sick).