Thursday 17 January 2013

Friday Night Special

It's not often that TNA beats WWE to the punch. Since its launch the company has more often than not operated in the wake of WWE's success. They've hired WWE cast-offs, run shoddy rehashes of WWE stories, and presented a distinctly sports entertainment flavour of in-ring product. It has always been very clear who the trendsetter is.
TNA's decision to move away from the monthly pay-per-view format was announced last year and seemed like a definite step in the right direction. We were told that TNA would present ten monthly pay-per-views in 2013, with the stated plan to drop the tally again in 2014.
An announcement was made last week that completely altered the TNA PPV landscape. The group will present only four live Sunday night pay-per-views this year. The eight months that do not feature such a show will instead get a pre-recorded, themed Friday night themed show instead.
This move can be read in several ways but it has, however you view it, to be acknowledged as a positive thing. Concentrating on four major events a year will allow TNA to pace and direct their storylines far better. I suggested last year that the time of the twelve PPV a year format is drawing to a close and it's nice to see TNA making changes accordingly. Jumping before they’re pushed you might say.

Is the green lighting intended to put us in mind of a halo, do you think?
The Friday night events will apparently be offered at a far cheaper price than the group's regular events, which should help to encourage buys. It's possible the themes will prove similarly enticing. A show comprised of X Division talent, for example, should be a fairly successful show. A hardcore show could be too, if enough thought is put into the planning of the card and it's subtly (and I do mean subtly) marketed as having an ECW tinge to it.
The only reservation I had when I initially heard of the plan was the decision to air the shows on a delay. Live broadcasts are the norm for wrestling and sports in general these days. It's one thing to tape a TV show and air that a few days later. That's free to view and is (theoretically) a way of promoting the product and encouraging people to spend money on the product in other ways.

Charging for taped broadcasts has never worked in wrestling. Ring of Honor discovered that when they first started airing big events. The WWF found it out when it first started testing the waters with big shows not named WrestleMania.
TNA itself used the taped PPV model when it first launched. It helped them achieve their goal (a television contract) but that was its point. It was a means to an end, something to be discarded as soon as they'd got something better.
That said I don't think the taped nature of the events is a complete mistake. It will keep costs lower than a live broadcast, which is surely part of the point. While I stand by my belief that a taped event is a tougher sell (because of the nature of spoilers) I don't think it's an impossible one. If pushed more as a chance to watch some quality matches rather than the chance to see a title change hands or the final entry into a lengthy feud I think these Friday specials will have an appeal. Basically they need to be aimed more at the regular viewers, the people who appreciate a good wrestling match as much as or more than a good storyline.
Don't expect WWE to follow suit anytime soon. They're in a much better financial position than TNA and will stick with the monthly format until it proves a money loser. Considering the international juggernaut Vince McMahon's company is I don't think that's going to happen for quite a while.
But let's end on a positive note. TNA have not only taken the initiative and done something before their chief rival, they've also done something that should help them creatively and economically. It's a move I've wanted to see WWE make for a long time. I'm glad TNA got there first.

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