On Wednesday night, TNA Impact made their rather inauspicious debut on Destination America. Beset by production difficulties caused by the latest budget cuts and the illogical storytelling that TNA are renowned for, this was a show that only TNA diehards could really love. TNA are lucky in the sense that the WWE product is in such a malaise at the moment that even such a flat-footed kick-off on a new network may be palatable to some wrestling fans craving an alternative to the three hour chore Monday Night Raw can be to watch.
However, more important than the quality of the show, was whether TNA could draw a respectable rating right off the bat for their new broadcaster and how hard were they hit by the move to a much lower rated network than Spike TV, that consequently is available in much fewer homes.
There's conflicting reports on the exact number TNA drew, but the take home message was that although Impact was the highest rated show of the week for Destination America, they still lost well over half the viewers they used to have on Spike TV.
F4Wonline.com claimed that "the first episode of Impact on Destination America did 359,000 viewers" and noted that this was "well above average for the station". Dave Meltzer later clarified on his message board that was "for 8-10 p.m. Wednesday night".
James Caldwell of PWTorch.com had a more detailed breakdown of the ratings, which differed from the F4WOnline post. He stated that "Impact drew 263,000 viewers, translating to a 0.46 cable TV rating (0.2 national TV rating)" for the first airing of the episode and that the "the Impact replay at 11:00 p.m. EST drew 105,000 viewers or a 0.18 cable TV rating", which would yield a combined audience of 368,000 viewers for the two airings. He also mentioned that 263,000 viewers was just enough to "put Impact at the top of Destination America's list for the week, topping 250,000 viewers for a show called Killing Bigfoot".
PWInsider.com's report agreed with Caldwell's that "the 1/7 debut of Impact on Destination America did 263,000 viewers" and noted that "the 11/19 edition of Impact on Spike, which was the last first run edition of the show, did 980,000 viewers", but that such a significant drop in viewership was to be expected.
One would suspect that TNA's audience to grow somewhat as more of their old viewers gradually find them on the new station (although that may be offset by the move to Friday nights, as that's a worse timeslot to draw an audience in), but it will be impossible for them to reach their old levels unless Destination America becomes available in more homes and becomes more popular as a channel. Such changes don't happen overnight, so in 2015 TNA will have to find a way to survive and thrive with a fraction of the viewers they had on Spike TV. I wish them the best of luck in that challenging endeavour.