Dave Meltzer reported in the May 7th Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Spike TV are moving TNA Impact to a one hour earlier time slot from May 31st onwards. The impetus for this decision is to get the jump on the NFL, which is expanding its Thursday night coverage on the NFL network and would be expected to take a significant bite out of Impact's ratings come the fall. The NFL games don't start until 8:20pm, so this allows the first twenty minutes of Impact to avoid football competition. It has the added bonus of allowing Impact to end before Jersey Shore starts, but given that the demographics of those two shows don't overlap I doubt that will be of much benefit.
Personally I'm not sure this is a good move, as 9-11pm is the time slot wrestling fans are used to. In the short term at the very least it will hurt Impact's ratings as viewers take time to get used to the new start time and people tend to stay out later during the summer. Moreover, Impact's recent ratings pattern of starting off weak, below a 0.9 rating, and usually peaking in the quarter between 10:00-10:15pm, but still finishing off stronger than they begun, also suggests that this is a step in the wrong direction. The only possible benefit is that by airing earlier they may draw more young teenage viewers during the school year, something Dixie Carter pointed to in her recent interview with Busted Open satellite radio:
There're more viewers available in that time slot. There's a younger audience that's available. When the kids are not in school, we have really really high younger numbers, and that fluctuates depending on what's going on with school year all the way up through college even. So I think it will be interesting to see what happens. Spike thought it was an exciting opportunity for us to try and we're going to, and we'll see what happens.
I think what we're trying to do is be more consistent with the bleeping of the language. I mean, we can all go see the movie Shrek and we get one thing out of it, our kids get another thing out of it. That's the line that we have to walk: to provide something that is going to be an edgy product, but do it in a way that is not going to be offensive. And we just have to stay consistent at it.
At the end of the day, TNA's problem isn't their time slot and tinkering with it misses the point that if they produced a compelling wrestling show, then they would be able to better withstand stiffer sports competition. Moving earlier shows a complete lack of courage from both Spike TV and TNA and is a band aid that is far from guaranteed to turnaround Impact's declining viewership without fixing the problems with their current presentation. We will keep you updated in the months ahead at how this questionable move pans out for TNA.