wrestling / Columns

Csonka: Is Impact’s Latest TV Deal Just a Stay of Execution?

December 22, 2018 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Wrestlepro Impact Wrestling Pursuit Impact's Pursuit

The morning of December 21st started off with optimism, as I had just published a new column on things I wanted for wrestling in 2019. One of these things I wanted was more than just stability for Impact wrestling. I wanted more than stability, I wanted the company to thrive and grow like never before. With the improvements of 2018, I was really hoping that 2019 would be that year for Impact, the year things finally all come together, go right, that they could secure a viable TV deal and they can grow and not worry about 100 other issues. And then a few hours later, that wasn’t in the cards

The TV History: The broadcast/TV history of Impact is really fascinating…

* Weekly PPV: They started on weekly PPV, a bold strategy that seemed destined to fail without good PR or a TV outlet to push them. They did solid numbers early on, but after projections were grossly overestimated, the company blew the budget and financial backer Health South pulled out and TNA was almost dead three months in.

* Paid Programming on FSN: Dixie and the Carter family entered the fold, heavily invested/bought into the company, and they survived. They kept with weekly PPV and also worked a time buy on FSN with the hopes that the TV could drive the PPV. It wasn’t a horrible idea, but it ended up a huge financial drain on the company. But thankfully, the golden goose was about to land.

* Spike TV: Impact scored an hour on Spike TV (93 million households with a healthy TV rights deal) that started lower on the TV rights scale, but as the company started averaging the old “1.1” that the seemingly held forever and were rewarded a second hour, they were reportedly making $8 to $10 million a year. Had they been able to maintain this deal, the company wouldn’t have fallen on the hard times it did. But a combination of Spike changing vision, Dixie upsetting the wrong people, and hiding Vince Russo was working for them signaled the end.

* Destination America: With the lucrative Spike deal finished, the company moved to Destination America (57.2 million households (mixed reports of a low TV rights deal/advertising split) with what had been reported as a base TV rights fee of $3 million, plus an ad revenue share. There were replays and a ton of shoulder programming to start, but they quickly disappeared in a bad sign. The budget was severely slashed, and Destination America reportedly had issues selling ad time for the show, so that didn’t add to the wallet any. In fact, the cancellation announcement read as follows…

Destination America is not renewing TNA Wrestling next year. While the ratings were strong, the audience was not large enough to justify the program investment. We plan to honor the current contract and continue to air original episodes of TNA Wrestling on Friday nights through the end of the third quarter 2015. When the up-front rate card is released, the Friday night anthology title will now be called ‘American Tales,’ which will be a combination of Paranormal and Americana programming. I hope this is good news given all of the advertisers that included TNA on their DNA [Do Not Advertise] list.

And then there was the whole snafu where Dixie Carter accidentally emailed a Destination America executive on an e-mail where she was complaining about the network. Dixie reportedly called Discovery President Mark Graboff some negative names in the e-mail and took a shot at his intelligence in some way. Besides the intended recipients, Dixie also sent the e-mail to Destination America Group President Harvey Schlieff and several other Discovery executives. It all ended in a colossal mess, with the company looking extremely bad thanks to Dixie’s “business skills.”

* POP TV: They then scored the POP TV deal, with 73.8 million households (way more than Destination America) and mixed reports of a low TV rights deal/advertising split. There were reports that the company was getting $1 million as a rights fee, with an ad revenue slit on top. It wasn’t great, but it was a lifeline that they needed to survive. I kept hoping that the stability would lead to something more. There is no doubt that 2018 has been a good year for Impact, D’Amore & Callis have done a good job, and I feel that the year has been a big positive; it’s still been a struggle and far from perfect, but there have been a lot of positives in 2018.

* Pursuit Channel: And then, as it always does with the company, something had to go wrong. POP TV is looking to do something different, they shifted Impart to 10PM and started airing Aro Lucha commercials, which were another bad sign. And now Impact moves to the Pursuit Channel, a drop in possible viewership with approximately 40 to 42 million households. They keep saying it will be lucrative, but let us face facts. Anthem, which owns Impact, owns this channel. This is the equivalent of dad giving his washed out son one of his car washes to run to keep him productive. And even if “Pursuit” is paying “Impact,” its just dad shifting loose change from one pocket to another; it means nothing other than creative bookkeeping.

POP Was About To Be Finished With Them: Like mentioned above unless you had blinders on, it was clear that POP was pushing Impact away and getting ready to replace them. They moved the timeslot, and had been airing Aro Lucha commercials, which by all accounts, will be replacing Impact on. It was coming and soon, and we all knew it, but just really hoped for the best.

But Larry, something is Better Than Nothing!: While it’s good that they retained some form of TV, the fact that they moved to a network Anthem owns is proof that no outside platform was interested in the program. Trust me, if there was interest, Anthem would have taken a deal to get rights fees. And again, even if Pursuit “pays” Impact rights fees, what the fuck does that mean? You’re simply shifting money from one pocket to another.

Something is Essentially Nothing With This Timeslot: It’s also damning that Anthem, on a network they have ownership in, couldn’t leverage a better time slot than 10PM ET on a Friday. Friday’s at 10PM ET is not only a spot of irrelevance but a death sentence before they even begin. The fact that they ended upon Pursuit in such a shit timeslot, means that while they shopped the show around, there was absolutely no interest, which is a shame for the company.

You can wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which fills up first: I keep reading stuff like “WGN would have been way better” and similar thoughts. No shit Sherlock, it would have been great has ESPN decided they needed wrestling and tosses $5 million a year at them, but it’s just not that easy. We wanted it to be, we all hoped it would be, but at the end of the day, Impact goes back to square one. Can they overcome again, or is this just a stay of execution?

I know that the company line is that, “The Pursuit move is being seen as a way for Impact to take a breather and not have to worry about where the show will air as they still try to pursue a larger scale deal.” And that is likely the hope, but what do you want them to say? “We’re fucked, no one wants us, closing up shop tomorrow.” of course not, they are going to fight, but after all these years, you have to wonder how much fight is left…

– End Scene.

– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”