Ten days ago, TNA announced that they had signed a multi-year contract extension with Spike TV. Dave Meltzer in this week's subscriber only Wrestling Observer Newsletter claimed that it was a two year deal which would end in October 2014. The negotiations weren't a formality, not due to any concern about TNA's ratings, which continue to hover in the 1.0 - 1.2 range well above the station's prime time average, but because of rumours that Eric Bischoff was trying to steal the programming contract for himself and set up a new promotion in opposition to WWE, mainly with TNA's talent, because without television the Carter family would be forced out of the wrestling business. Apparently, Spike TV decided that the headaches and uncertainty that would come with booting TNA off their network, including a possible contract tampering lawsuit from the Carters, wasn't worth the hassle. So we're stuck with the status quo.
You may be wondering how Eric Bischoff keeps his job with TNA after such flagrant treachery, but Spike would rather work with him than Dixie Carter, after she lost face with their executives when she promised them the return of Booker T and Kevin Nash in January 2011, only for them to turn up at that year's WWE Royal Rumble instead. Also, if Bischoff was forced out of TNA, then his best buddy Hulk Hogan would likely bail out on the promotion in protest, whose star power Spike TV is still in thrall of. So Dixie is in the rather uncomfortable position of having to work closely with people she cannot trust.
Indeed, when she met with Spike TV executives earlier this week to formulate a battle plan for the future, her backstabber Eric Bischoff was in tow. Bischoff was crowing on his facebook page before the meeting took place about how Impact's ratings are currently kicking UFC's The Ultimate Fighter in the ass, which likely played well before that audience, given that Viacom bought Bellator Fighting Championships last October and are in a bitter promotional war with Dana White:
Think we came close to hitting these numbers with a couple episodes of ReAction at 11pm on Spike: http://www.fighters.com/04/09/ultimate-fighter-ratings-hit-all-time-low-with-last-week's-episode
Tons of promotion on Fox and FX, a budget 3x bigger than Impact and 500,000 less viewers? Impact has a larger audience than ever, and is going to have a great season with new elements following Lockdown. Can't wait!
However, his schadenfreude is completely misplaced when TNA would be over the moon with a fraction of UFC's big profits or being able to nab such a lucrative television contract. Impact may have better ratings than TUF at the moment, but their ad rates are minuscule in comparison. He's still a ratings mark after all these years, despite that doing him a fat lot of good in the long run as President of WCW.
So what changes can we expect from the strengthened alliance between Spike and TNA. According to Meltzer, it sounds like they will be mainly window dressing than the radical overhaul that TNA's product badly needs:
Dixie Carter spoke with us earlier today, saying there would be a lot of changes in the next few weeks as far as the presentation of the shows after her meetings yesterday with Spike TV. She wasn't specific, only saying it would play out soon and would include format changes and new elements to the show. She said the company is making a very conscious decision to focus now on young talent.
A fresh lick of paint to the production of Impact can't do any harm, but is unlikely to significantly boost ratings on their own. Pushing new stars would be a definite positive, but TNA have given lip service regarding that many times before. With Hogan, Bischoff, Sting, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy and Jeff Jarrett still kicking around, I'll believe that when I see it. It also may be too little too late, as TNA has sent the message throughout its existence that the real stars are the ones that came from WWE or WCW, and it will be tough to make their fans see differently after being indoctrinated otherwise.
There are also rumours that Spike will add new TNA programming as part of the deal, but given that their documentary style post game show for Impact, TNA ReACTION, was an expensive ratings bust, I don't have confidence that they have any good ideas to fill more television time outside of rare specials like the one off shows where they aired matches of TNA talent working New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual January 4th Tokyo Dome mega event.
We will see what happens from here, but with the same crew in charge, I don't foresee TNA getting out of the business rut they're stuck in any time soon.