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DENNY'S DUNGEON
Time for Business Plan B
July 9, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

Total Nonstop Action wrestling on pay per view just came to a grinding halt as far as DirecTV customers are concerned. There's no more $9.95 PPV show on Wednesday night for fans with a dish.

Now, the only way a dish subscriber can keep up with the happenings on the Jarrett family program is via Impact on Friday afternoons (in most markets) on Fox Sports Net. Thank god they got that deal moving when they did, or TNA, for all intents and purposes, would cease to exist for those fans on a national scale.

This is not the end of the world for TNA, but it is a pretty serious problem that needs to be fixed soon. For two years, TNA has based their business model on the notion that they can earn a sustainable profit through these weekly pay per view programs. And for two years, they basically did that. I can't give you a specific number, but hey... they're still around, and they haven't changed their strategy much besides adding a free weekly show. That PPV business model must have been clicking on at least SOME cylinders, or TNA would have abandoned it - either that, or they'd have tanked.

We're also told this arrangement isn't necessarily permanent. TNA is telling fans they're off DirecTV for the month of July. Of course, that wording leads one to believe there's a good chance they'll be back on DirecTV in August, which is not a lock either. InDemand controls where TNA goes in terms of PPV distribution. They negotiated the deal with DirecTV. Due to InDemand's leverage position, you could also deduce that they had at least a partial role in TNA parting ways with DirecTV this month. So what's the dealbreaker here? Is InDemand making a power play and trying to get a better financial arrangement with DirecTV? Worse yet for TNA, is InDemand making a power play by removing TNA from DirecTV for exclusivity reasons, thus showing complete disregard for TNA needing that DirecTV PPV revenue and thinking only of their own business interests?

Or is something more dire going on, such as DirecTV losing interest in TNA as a PPV product altogether? You'd think DirecTV would keep any profitable PPV program around, unless there were better options for that time slot. Then again, DirecTV does huge busines with WWE (yes, even in a down market). Maybe they think giving the Jarretts the old heave-ho from their schedule will put a smile on Vinnie Mac's face over in Stamford, and strengthen their relationship with one of their biggest clients. Whatever the precise motive may be, it's certainly revolving around money.

Lots of questions for TNA in this mess. And here's one more: is it time for TNA to change their business model to a more traditional one?

I'm not saying they kill off the PPV model. I'm suggesting they supplement it with other income, so as not to be forced out of business if these PPV deals keep flubbing on them.

Most wrestling promotions run house shows when they're not filming for TV. They sell tickets in smaller venues, run shows, and earn the cash to keep the company floating while the TV is basically free for cable viewers. In return, they use their free TV programs (in TNA's case, this would be the successful Impact and the longtime B show Xplosion) to promote their house shows. If you like what you see on Impact, well, it'll be LIVE in your backyard in three weeks! If TNA could do that with any success, they would transition their PPV revenue from something they need to survive into something that puts them further in the black. Thus, they take a little more of the company's fate into their own hands and out of InDemand's control.

Of course, this seemingly simple strategy requires that TNA drastically change how they do business with their talent. No longer will AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Jerry Lynn, Chris Sabin, and the rest of the crew have their weekends free to accept bookings with Ring of Honor and other independent organizations. Instead, they'll have steady work with TNA. TNA would also have to go back on their word to allow their talent to work other shows (for a cut of the talent fee). Not only that, but TNA would now be eating away at the indie live show market. On top of taking their talent away from the indies, they'd also be taking away venues (gotta hold the show SOMEWHERE). Besides taking name talent and venues away from promotions like Ring of Honor, they'll be taking profit - TNA holds a show for $10 featuring all of their TV talent on a Friday night, and the same venue has some random indy show with little to no "name value" wrestlers on Saturday. Both cost $10. Maybe you go to both shows, but if you only picked one, which would it be? Definitely TNA.

Would the TNA locker room go for it? Honestly, as long as they made the same scratch working a TNA house show that they'd have made in Ring of Honor or elsewhere, they probably wouldn't care. They understand that TNA is the best exposure they have right now. If TNA can keep getting them on TV and keep their income at least steady, that's a good deal.

Of course, Ring of Honor and the indies would be completely screwed. Well, not to sound like a dickhead here - or a McMahon - but that's business. TNA is not in business to help other companies. They're in business to succeed on their own. As it stands now, TNA is being an enormous help to these other promotions by putting over their talent on television and by being non-exclusive. Should TNA allow itself to go slowly bankrupt just to keep helping out other companies? Hell no. At some point, you have to ensure your own survival.

I actually can't believe TNA hasn't started running house shows yet. It seems like such a no-brainer. Sure there's travel involved, but christ, 90 percent of your roster is working for other companies every weekend anyway. Companies that don't have the name value of TNA. Companies that probably can't draw the same size house that TNA might. Why not give it a shot?

It sure seems better than allowing InDemand to negotiate you out of your own business model.

E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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