What Should Anthem Do To Make TNA Successful?
Dixe Carter has officially relinquished power in TNA.
Anthem Entertainment, the parent company of the Fight Network, released a press release to announce that it has officially purchased the majority of Impact Wrestling, forming Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions. While the news was apparent when the Canadian media company paid to clean up Dixie’s mess to make way for the purchase, the press release revealed that while Dixie will retain a minority share, (the numbers suggest somewhere around 5%) she resigned as chairman of Impact Ventures and will only sit on the board of directors for Anthem Entertainment, which translates to no position of authority in TNA.
In truth, this “executive” position for Dixie is more of a vanity job in an attempt for her to save face so who knows if she will be an advisor for Anthem six months from now? It’s honestly amazing that somehow TNA survived all the turbulence to not only remain in business, but theoretically have the funding to stabilize itself. Although, Dixie had no leverage in the negotiations, because who else would go into business with her? From a business prospective, the Fight Network had the chance to own one of its continuous sources of content and acquire the second largest pro wrestling company in the United States within the same deal.
Anthem Entertainment is a multi-million dollar company so the doors of TNA will stay open, but what does the company need to become profitable?
Ed Nordholm, the vice president of Anthem Entertainment, will be the president of Impact after the sale is complete. First, it should be noted that even if Anthem makes all the right decisions regarding this project, it will be at least a year before noticeable progress will be made.
While Anthem can distribute episodes of Impact itself through the Fight Network in Canada, there must be some effort toward expanding their TV presence in the United States. The Pop deal kept the company afloat as it would’ve went under without it, but the numbers are marginal and stagnant. To put it in prospective, the Viacom-owned Spike TV has 80% clearance in America, and the lesser known Pop garners a 64% clearance. The goal of any business is to get as many eyes as on the product as possible and then to monetize it for a profit. The ways to achieve that profit all hinge on the distribution of the product. If more fans watch the show there’s a possibility for more ad revenue, sponsorship, the ability to market a pay-per-view, the house shows etc. Without the proper distribution, fans won’t know what the company is selling. So, it can’t be emphasized enough that more TV clearance is the key to long-term success for TNA.
When the company began taping several episodes of TV in the span of a few days outside of Orlando Studios a few years ago, it also was forced to slash production costs any place possible. As we know now, Dixie cut the production budget to the bare bones and still couldn’t afford to pay for it, which resulted in one of the many lawsuits that Anthem had to clean up prior to the purchase of the group. The reduced lightning and camera availability made the show look completely bush league. The visual of the dimly lit episodes gave the impression that it was a minor league product and thus limited the perception of the star power of the performers.
After the mass exodus a few years ago, many of the key TNA stars went on to become successful elsewhere, but that left the promotion with a lack of legitimate star power, a situation that wasn’t helped by the booking fumbles of the past. Considering that Anthem has substantial funding resources, it’s important that they at least attempt to sign some of the credible free agents on the market, names the fans recognize. Again, it’s about getting eyes on the product, and Impact Wrestling is essentially trying to get a piece of the WWE pie. Keep in mind, there’s a difference between signing every WWE castaway possible (something TNA did often in its early years) and a deal with a star that can actually bring something to the table.
Names that immediately come to mind are Cody Rhodes, Alberto Del Rio, and Rey Mysterio. Cody was there for a brief period and reportedly wasn’t offered a lucrative enough contract so he only worked a few matches. Del Rio was supposedly in negotiations with the organization on a few occasions, but didn’t get the right money offer. Obviously, Mysterio has the name value to demand a good deal. Those roadblocks can now be cleared with Anthem writing the checks so it makes sense for them to invest into names that can move numbers for the company. Speaking of the funding, if Anthem is willing to spend the money, it might be possible that current WWE stars might at least consider the idea of working a lighter schedule after their contract expires. Remember, there’s a difference between what an aging Scott Steiner “contributed” to TNA compared to the following that Mysterio has as one of the most popular stars of the decade. Granted, Mysterio isn’t in the prime of his career, but getting more fans to tune in brings more exposure to the younger talent on the roster and in the process it could help make them stars.
The Hardys are stars and they’ve generated a following with the “Broken” gimmick, but Anthem needs to find a way to truly monetize it. If it’s through more pay-per-views or a house show tour, TNA has yet to make money from the notoriety of the gimmick, and it certainly appears that there’s potential for it to draw for the promotion. Honestly, I really can’t stand the “Total Deletion” storyline because it stretches the limit of logic too far in the context of a pro wrestling show, and I don’t think the causal fan will watch something so out of the realm of the typical wrestling show. In my opinion, flying drones and other off the wall segments are silly, not innovative. In fact, I would suggest that B-movie type segments and a volcano are so illogical on a wrestling show that most fans that aren’t familiar with TNA would roll their eyes at some of the more outlandish “Deletion” shows.
However, just because “Total Deletion” isn’t my cup of tea, (or energy drink in this case, as I’m enjoying a caffeinated beverage as I write this) there’s no doubt that it became a cult favorite during the past year. I could be completely wrong, and more fans will jump on the deletion bandwagon once they watch the product. If Anthem takes Impact on the road for house shows again, “Total Nonstop Deletion” could draw crowds.
Fans enjoy chanting “Delete!” and “Obsolete!” so why not make money from it? The fact is, despite the success of “Broken” Matt Hardy, the ratings have remained the same, which is why better distribution would allow the company to see how much of a draw the gimmick is for a main stream audience. A side note, Matt Hardy deserves a lot of credit for how he made the gimmick work because he could’ve easily replied on his name value from his time in the WWE to make decent money for the rest of his career. Perhaps, the reason that the new version of Hardy garnered a following is because it was progress toward a goal in his career and thus progress for the company. For the past 5-6 years, Impact Wrestling was associated with Hulk Hogan being Hulk Hogan, the performers that built of the company leaving on less than ideal terms, and almost constant rumors of the possible demise. Matt Hardy brought something new to the organization that built toward something even if it’s not for everyone.
What is TNA? That’s a simple question, but a very complicated answer. At one point, it was an innovative group with an innovative X-Division that did things most hadn’t seen before. Eventually, it became known as a place where former WWE stars could collect a paycheck and then it became the company that made so many mistakes it was almost comical. There was the opportunity for the promotion to brand itself the “wrestling company,” similar to what WCW in terms of showcasing a more fast paced style than the WWE. Instead, it became WWE lite and that wasn’t be a successful formula.
Considering the lack of brand identity that already exists, Anthem should change the name.
If Nordholm wants to keep the Impact name for TV that’s one thing, but the letters “TNA” have always been a terrible name for the promotion and implies an innuendo for those that aren’t aware that it’s a wrestling company, which doesn’t help the possibility of the previously mentioned sponsorship. The general public identifies pro wrestling with initials, an aspect that further necessitates the change and emphasizes a new acronym as opposed to just a term such as “Impact Wrestling.”
The booking is a completely additional matter, but generally speaking, Anthem will have to decide what performers represent their “brand” and that will work toward establishing an identity. Impact Wrestling usually has a solid roster, but the past few years haven’t marketed or put the spotlight on the talent. Hopefully, Anthem Entertainment can use their resources to do that. I’m still puzzled as to why Bobby Lashley, the 40-year-old part-time MMA fighter, continues to be featured so prominently in the title picture. It goes without saying that the former WWE star is a great athlete, but his success on the big stage was minimal at best so he didn’t really bring star power to TNA. At his age, is it worth investing that type of TV time for him? More importantly, will Bobby Lashley draw money for Impact Wrestling? That’s not a sarcastic question either, but despite his MMA record, that doesn’t automatically make him a TNA version of Brock Lesnar.
There must be some tough decisions made for the direction of the product going forward.
The reason I’ve emphasized the previously mentioned points is because it has to translate to revenue. The entire point of a company is to generate money and make a profit. Without revenue and establishing revenue streams, the company will remain stagnant. The bottom line is, will Anthem Entertainment be able to make Impact Wrestling profitable? Anthem certainly has the funding to market the product and that investment will allow them to determine if the content of TNA can draw money. Pay-per-views, merchandise, house shows etc. are all possible revenue streams if Anthem is willing to spend the money to promote it. Right now, the revenue streams mentioned are either minimal or nonexistent so eventually more viewers will be what allows them to make money.
Ironically, there’s a pay-per-view event scheduled to air this week, but don’t expect staggering numbers, simply because Anthem didn’t have the chance to start to market the promotion yet. I was very surprised to read that PWinsider reported that Dutch Mantell and Jeff Jarrett, both of whom worked for the company previously, had signed to work backstage. It was also mentioned that Jarrett’s role in TNA won’t affect Global Force Wrestling, and supposedly, Anthem might help GFW secure a TV deal, which would provide their networks with more programming. Jarrett is one of the most seasoned veterans in the industry, and fans aren’t necessarily clamoring for another Double J title run, but it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table.
Dutch Mantell is one of the most underrated and brightest minds in the history of the business. A former booker in Puerto Rico, Mantell resurfaced on the national stage as Zeb Colter and cut some of the best promos on WWE TV. Quite frankly, I was shocked that Mantell was released from the company instead of transitioning to the creative team or working with the younger talent in NXT. It was reported that Dutch will work on the booking team for TNA, and he’s an extremely valuable asset for the company, mostly because in his role as the booker of territories in the past, he was successful enough to draw money.
The distribution of the company, the production of the TV shows, the branding of the product, and the star power to get more viewers to watch the shows must all translate to revenue for TNA to be a successful project for Anthem Entertainment. In some ways, this scenario could almost make Impact a small scale version of WCW and it terms of promoting, that’s a good thing. Similar to Turner, Anthem has the funding and owns the TV networks to at least make it possible for TNA to get more exposure. Obviously, Anthem doesn’t have the amount of money that Turner had to fund a wrestling project, but enough pieces of the puzzle are there that Anthem could legitimately market TNA as the second biggest professional wrestling company in the United States.
If any of these strategies are used or effective remains to be seen, but if nothing else Impact Wrestling actually has a chance to make some progress. More than anything, Dixie Carter finally doesn’t have the power to run a wrestling company, which could give the promotion more of a chance for success than it ever had previously.
Until next week
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