Six months ago, I predicted that TNA's anticipated move to Destination America would continue the company's seemingly inevitable downward spiral into obscurity. Sadly, most of my predictions have been spot on.
The audience viewership for TNA Impact has been halved due to their new station being available in 36 million less homes than Spike TV. Clearly, new fans aren't being created as there's been no growth in viewership since moving to Destination America and most of the people who are still watching are 40+ year old men, a demographic that rarely goes to live wrestling events.
The negative that TNA was an obvious strange fit to Destination America's branding and programming lineup has lead to strange stories leaking about how their television partner wasn't particularly happy about TNA taping several weeks of television in the UK earlier this year, and how they were heavily responsible for the decision to put the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on American Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle.
It's been confirmed that the Destination America deal is worth significantly less money than their old Spike TV rights fees were, which isn't counting how Spike regularly chipped in to contribute towards production costs and the salaries of top talent like Sting. Other business streams, like ticket sales and merchandising, must have fallen off the cliff face, because, apart from the aforementioned trip to the UK, which wasn't quite as big a success as years past, they've done no live touring whatsoever.
Consequently, TNA has struggled to pay their performers and production staff on time, which led to the public black eye of Taz leaving the company over those late payment issues. Budgetary cutbacks also led to Samoa Joe departing TNA when his contract expired to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
The only pleasant surprise has been that TNA's onscreen creative chaos has largely been absent this year after their very shaky launch show on Destination America, but with the continued erosion of star power that hasn't had any positive impact on ratings yet.
Thus, overall, my pessimistic prognostications have rung true so far. However, even I didn't quite anticipate how quickly the relationship between TNA and Destination America would sour, making the possibility of Impact being cancelled by a second television station two years running a very real and genuine threat.
As we reported earlier today, Dave Meltzer posted on his message board forum last week that "DA has an out clause in September." He's also alluded to recently doing TNA a big favor on Twitter in an online spat with a hardline, loyalist fan and also backstage TNA staffer Bob Ryder over his "negative" media coverage of the company:
@AmericanAlucard @brydertna Hey, while you're at it, I dare you to ask Bob Ryder details of the favor I did for them?Does Bob have the guts?— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) May 17, 2015
Get over yourself Dave. If you can't handle criticism, don't be a critic. Don't need to prove I have "guts" to you. https://t.co/odN8JJaisj— Bob Ryder (@brydertna) May 17, 2015
I'm not sure that doling out assistance to a promotion with such a long track record of appalling treatment of their undercard talent and horrible incompetence, whilst only being able to report cryptically as to what's really going on, is what a responsible and impartial journalist should be doing, but clearly Dave doesn't believe that TNA’s continued existence is a significant opportunity cost for the rest of the wrestling industry. Regardless, the fact that Dave Meltzer publicly revealed that Destination America have an opt-out clause in their contract with TNA in just over three months time, should be taken as a rather strong hint that the TV execs at DA are seriously contemplating using that option.
This belief would gel with his worrying comment last month that: "The Discovery channel signed TNA as an experiment and I was told that the experiment turned out very bad when it comes to generating ad revenue (and you can watch the shows and see the ads) and they expected far more viewers." If Discovery Communications are losing money on the deal, then early termination would understandably be on the table, as even though Impact is one of Destination America's highest rated shows, it's not a big enough difference maker to move them significantly up the viewership charts. Last year, Destination America was the 49th most watched cable channel in prime time and the addition of TNA programming would probably just bump it up a few places at most.
That said, not all hope is lost. Clearly, moving Impact back to Wednesday nights starting from June 3rd is a recognition that Destination America's immediate decision to move the show to Friday nights, when the male 18-34 demographic often have better things to do than watch wrestling, was a mistake. TNA now has a timeslot where they can potentially get a broader range of people watching and start showing signs of viewership growth again. However, there is no guarantee of success, as Smackdown's recent example demonstrates. Despite moving from Friday to Thursday nights earlier this year, a move WWE has long wanted, Smackdown's ratings are actually slightly down year-on-year currently. If a similar decline happens to Impact Wrestling, TNA would likely be in big trouble come the autumn.
The signing of Billy Corgan as a creative team member gave TNA a much needed publicity boost recently, but the positive effects of that will likely be short-lived. Corgan seems to have good ideas, but as he only has a supporting role on the team, his hiring won't be a game-changer. That said, if the worst comes to the worst, his contacts in the entertainment and TV industries could prove useful, if TNA indeed needs to find a new television partner later this year or the Carter family wanted to find a buyer for the company.
None of this is to say that TNA won't exist long into the future. TNA is a zombie wrestling promotion, a company that should have died long ago in the face of evidence that undermined its basic premise, but largely due to Bob Carter's willingness to fund his daughter Dixie's strange business obsession, it just keeps shambling along from one disaster to the next. But one should also remember that in most horror stories the zombie does indeed die in the end.