05 September 2013

Behind The Curtain: The Budget Cuts

Welcome everyone to Behind The Curtain. This series is dedicated to going behind the scenes of TNA Wrestling and analysing the actions and decisions made backstage, looking at the possible reasons behind those actions with the aim to get the clearest possible picture concerning the topic. So now you know, let's begin.

The Summer of 2012 will be remembered as the time when TNA showcased great matches, intriguing storylines and went live each and every week with Impact Wrestling. In the summer of 2013, it could be said most will remember it very differently. After the success of the live Summer Impacts, TNA's flagship program went live permanently, and also went on the road full time in March 2013. It looked like TNA were hitting their stride with all these positive developments, but after a few months on the road, TNA began releasing talents both on and off screen, causing speculation to begin about what was going on in the TNA front office.

The names and their positions varied, from young talent such as Crimson & Joey Ryan, to veterans in Tara & Devon, and even backstage executives D-Lo Brown and Bruce Prichard. These names and more all found themselves heading out of TNA. While some asked to leave, the large majority found they had been cut by TNA management, the reason cited was “budget cuts”. Questions could be asked why certain talent were cut, but the main interest and subsequent confusion in the wresting world is the reason for the budget cuts.

The most commonly used explanation ties in with TNA going on the road. Many claim that TNA predicted an average revenue from TV tapings (ticket sales, merchandise etc.) and that up to current date, that average has been lower than expected. Because the number is apparently lower than TNA thought it would be, they had to cut costs quickly in order to stay on the road. While this on the surface could be agreed as the reason, when looked further into it seems less likely.

As you may or may not be aware, I have tracked TNA ticket sales for some time now. My tracking relies on the interactive seating charts the ticket providers sometimes use. With this the number of total tickets on sale, total tickets sold and tickets remaining can be acquired. From tracking sales way before TNA went permanently on the road, to tracking sales now they are on the road, I can tell you the average tickets sold for a televised TNA event has not changed.

As an organisation, when it comes to analysing a certain part of a business, in this case attendance, to predict an average number for upcoming events, a company will use the most recent data they have. The numbers before they went on the road including PPV's average was around 4000. When looking at the average number for Impacts on the road in 2011 (the last time they took Impact on the road in the U.S.) compared to PPVs on the road in 2011, the average for Impact is about 1000 fans less, which is around 3000. Therefore TNA had the information to predict the probable attendance an Impact taping would draw. So to believe that TNA, even with the average difference between a TV taping and a PPV attendance, would set a number higher than their information told them doesn't make much sense.

While the above is a possible reason, it has several aspects that make it hard to believe. While analysing that reason and dismissing it for its holes, it still doesn't answer what was behind these actions. There is however a reason that does have some merit and could explain these cuts.

When TNA decided to go on the road, it was a big step for the company. I'm sure TNA will have asked for some resources to fund the first few months of shows, whether that money came from Spike or Panda Energy is unknown. However, with such a big step, and a possible request for funds, TNA must have caught Panda's attention by making such a large financial investment. As the parent company of TNA, it wouldn't be surprising that Panda requested access to TNA's books to find that on the business side of TNA had encouraged this ambitious move to be made.

After looking through TNA's books, Panda representatives may have uncovered that TNA's expenditure is higher than it should be, and upon further investigation found that the monthly wage bill has something to do with it. After all this research, Panda may have informed Dixie Carter that they were paying out too much and that if TNA wanted to be financially comfortable in the long term now they were going on the road, they needed to set budgets for each division of the business and get within them, forcing them to make cuts.

It would make sense that Panda finally put their foot down and told Dixie and Co. to get their house in order. It's been widely speculated for years that Dixie has been very lenient with investing in one area and not cutting in others. With TNA going on the road, it could be said Panda realises that TNA could become a profitable investment now that they will be drawing a gate every other week, so it seems logical that they would want TNA to crack the whip with the business side of things in order to make the most profit, and go under this company restructure that has been needed for some time.

In my eyes the reason above makes the most sense to me. However the other reason stated, even with its holes, may be behind the releases. It could simply be a roster replenishment, which Dixie Carter claimed on Tuesday was the reason. But that would not explain the releases of So-Cal Val, Todd Keneley, D-lo Brown & Bruce Prichard.

All we know for sure is that Dixie Carter and her team of executives have decided to make many changes behind the scenes, some directly affect the on-screen product, while others don't have as much effect. If the reason I believe for the company restructure is true, it tells me this. TNA have realised that they needed to make changes to how the company runs in order to improve the all around well being of TNA. They have taken steps to go forward and make improvements, and are showing ambition to make TNA more successful than they have ever been. While the changes have affected some aspects of the current TV product, I expect once all the changes have been made and everything settles and returns to business as usual, we will see TNA improve in multiple aspects and hopefully begin to make the visible growth we have hoped to see for some time.    

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