Powell's Blog: TNA Impact Wrestling airing live throughout the summer is a risk worth taking

Posted in: Powell's Blog, MUST-READ LISTING
May 19, 2012 - 12:07 PM

Saturday, May 19, 2012 – 12:00 P.M. (CT)

Moments after the news first broke that WWE had decided to take a big step toward inflicting serious damage upon its flagship show by adding a third hour to Raw, Dixie Carter announced that big TNA news was on the verge of being announced. I must admit, visions of country music stars, Tennessee Titans, D-level reality show stars, and MMA fighters flashed before my eyes as I pondered the possibilities.

Fortunately, the announcement that followed was that TNA Impact Wrestling is going to air live on Thursday nights beginning May 31 and continuing through the summer. This is one TNA announcement that lived up to the hype. While WWE appears to be making a cash grab by expanding Raw to three hours to collect a hefty programming fee, TNA and Spike TV are going to be spending money with the hope of making more money in the future.

Make no mistake about it, this is going to be a costly move and it goes beyond just the production costs of running a live television show. Moving from a two or three consecutive day taping schedule means the company will be spending a small fortune on travel expenses by flying in talent on a weekly basis rather than every two to three weeks. For that matter, they will also fly some of the talent in specifically for pay-per-view Sundays.

As a viewer, I welcome the idea of TNA Impact Wrestling airing live every Thursday. I love the "anything can happen" feel that comes with a live pro wrestling television show. I don't know if this approach is going to bring in casual viewers who may not even care enough to know whether the show is currently taped, but it could cause a lot of disgruntled online fans to at least give the company another opportunity.

The current TNA product is good enough to deserve a look from those who moved on. If this was the same old TNA product, I would be rolling my eyes and labeling this move as a big waste of time and money. Yet while the current TNA television product isn't flawless, it has been better and easier to follow. We aren't getting ridiculous swerves for the sake of having swerves. It's been more logical and far less infuriating than it had been throughout way too much of its run on Spike TV.

One can only hope that the company realizes what's working with the current setup. The focus on wrestlers such as Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Bully Ray, James Storm, and other modern talent feels so much fresher than when the company reverts to wasting too much precious air time on big names from the past. There's a place for Hulk Hogan, Sting, and other past their prime stars, but they simply can't be positioned the biggest stars in the company at the expense of the guys who have the potential to carry TNA for years to come.

From a business standpoint, going live is a risky move by TNA and Spike TV because of those added expenses. No end date was given to what appears to be a live show experiment more than a firm commitment from the network. Thus, it appears Spike is trying to avoid another embarrassing moment such as when they moved Impact to Monday nights to compete with Raw and then had to move it back to Thursdays a short time later.

There's no telling how long of a leash TNA will have, nor is there any guarantee that this approach is going to pay off in a way that justifies the added expenses. Nevertheless, I applaud the effort. TNA has been in a ratings rut. Impact rarely climbs above the 1.1 mark, and the improved shows have actually drawn worse ratings than the chaotic format of the past.

TNA needed something to get people talking. They needed to give frustrated viewers some incentive to watch their show again. They've been down the big signing road so many times and not one has led to a prolonged period of ratings success. Going live should bring some eyeballs back to the product and if TNA can deliver a quality product rather than repeating the same old mistakes, this could be just the move that was needed to spark interest in the company.

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