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The One Room Schoolhouse: Free For View vs. Pay Per View
THE ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE
Today’s class is a little spin on the ordinary TNA event reviews and previews. We’re exploring with a wider lens and looking at TNA’s product over the last 6 months. Read the “In Brief” for the details on the discussion and hope to see you inside.
TNA has broadcast 4 “Free for View” events this year to varying results. Each of these PPV-type events has been successful in delivering one or more top-notch wrestling matches, and furthering storylines in an exciting fashion. With each FFV event, TNA is fine tuning their presentation and content in order to produce an event that is a little different than what you would usually expect from the regular episode of Impact. How different have these FFV’s really been from Impact though? What does TNA gain from producing these monthly events in the same timeslot as Impact? Is there a point to them?
Ding! Ding! Ding! Let’s Begin
The bell has rung. Take out a piece of paper or open up your laptops so that you have somewhere to jot down your notes. Today, boys and girls, we’re going to begin a discussion on the questions you read from the lesson summary. I want to hear your thoughts and opinions. Get involved and show me what you know!
Let’s recap briefly. TNA cut their Sunday pay-per-view events from 12 to 4 this year. So far, they have shifted 4 former PPV events to Thursday nights in what they’ve labelled as PPV events broadcast free by Spike. I’m calling them FFV’s for short. The FFV’s are: Destination X, Hardcore Justice, No Surrender and Turning Point. By the name alone, these events are distinguished as separate from the regular Impact wrestling event that is normally shown on Thursdays. Furthermore, these FFV’s are pumped up by the announcers and by the company to be unique and superior to the normal Impact show. Are they really that unique and superior? No, at least, not at first, but each month, TNA has improved in making the FFV better.
First, by giving the event a unique title, the audience is provided with a reference point for the evening that is consistent with the history of TNA, as well as the current storylines. Each of these FFV’s is continuing a tradition that goes back roughly 10 years. TNA feels this tradition is important to maintain so, instead of getting rid of these event names, logos and all of the history associated with them, they have decided to continue these annual events. What day they occur doesn’t change the importance of the events. The promotion of the event and the matches and storylines dictate the importance of the event.
This year’s Destination X continued the new tradition of allowing the X Division Champion to forfeit their title in exchange for a shot at the World Heavyweight Champion. Chris Sabin was built up as a survivor, a TNA hero who returned after 2 terrible years of injuries to reclaim his place as an X Division legend. Now, he was seeking the next level of excellence, the chance to defeat Bully Ray of Aces & Eights and become World Champion. The premise of the feud and the build were very effective. Having this championship match on a regular Impact would not have produced the same excitement or aura as it eventually did at Destination X. That name has quickly become synonymous with this exciting X Division opportunity. Furthermore, there were three qualifying matches that took place to determine a final match for a new X Division champion. Thus, Destination X was effective in living up to its name and tradition. The quality of the matches, especially the Championship match between Bully Ray and Sabin, certainly had a PPV main event atmosphere to it. The finish was unexpected, with Sabin leaving the ring victorious after getting his butt kicked by Bully, who was in top bullying form.
Although ratings are not super accurate, this event did score a 1.16, which is higher than the average episode of Impact. For a Thursday night in the middle of July, that ain’t bad. Actually, it was TNA’s best rating since January. Assume from that what you will, given that there are a number of influences at play here, but the event succeeded in attracting viewers. Whether it was the matches that were promoted, the unique format and name of the event, a switch from the ordinary, or a number of channel hoppers landing on the same channel at the same time, Destination X was an FFV success.
A Little Mixed Up
Hardcore Justice, however, is a different story. This event spanned two weeks, needing a part 1 and a part 2, with multiple wrestlers wrestling twice on the card, albeit not within the same 2 hour broadcast. TNA jam packed this event with Bound For Glory tournament matches, a Sabin vs. Bully Ray Championship rematch and a giant 5 on 5 Main Event Mafia vs. Aces & Eights match, with the loser leaving TNA forever. The match quality was probably on par with Destination X and the amount of matches was more like a typical PPV. Having the event split into two parts took away some of the excitement and energy, not only for TV viewers but for the fans in the audience who had clearly done more of their cheering during part 1. Having the steel cage championship match as the main event of part 1 meant it was really the halfway point of the card. In the context of one week, that’s fine, but this was a two part, two week show, so technically that match was the midway point. Championship matches shouldn’t be midway through a show, especially the TNA World Heavyweight Championship match.
Also, the gimmick matches were mostly on that first show with BFG points on the line during a ladder match and a tables match. Aside from the 5 on 5 match, part 2 of Hardcore Justice would have fit much better as the opening part of the FFV. If it were on a Sunday PPV setting, that is likely what would’ve happened. So, TNA were limited by their time slot for this show, which they handled poorly by the way they scheduled the matches and lost energy and flow after the championship cage match.
Getting The Hang Of It
No Surrender and Turning Point, otherwise known as Pre Bound For Glory and Post Bound For Glory were both effective for connecting with the theme of the event. Although for the types of matches and wrestlers involved, No Surrender came off as more PPV worthy than Turning Point. This is because No Surrender featured the Semi-Finals and Finals of the BFG tournament whereas Turning Point featured two quarterfinal matches from the new TNA Heavyweight Title tournament. The ratings add some weight to this statement. No Surrender received a 1.08 and Turning Point received a 0.96. Again, there are other factors at play here but it’s possible that the promoted matches for the show and their place within current TNA storylines and feuds were the main factor in one show being more popular than another. Another factor at play are Dave Meltzer’s star ratings. Three matches from No Surrender received higher than 3 stars. While Turning Point’s ratings aren’t yet available, Bound For Glory, what is supposed to be TNA’s top PPV, had 2 matches receiving more than 3 stars and 1 match receiving exactly 3 stars. On this basis alone, a TNA FFV has met similar standards as a TNA PPV. Now what that says about Bound For Glory 2013 isn’t too positive, but still, if an FFV event is producing entertaining, engaging and top quality matches, it is succeeding in being unique and superior to the average Impact episode. Fans were excited to see if AJ Styles could reclaim his position atop the TNA and contend with Bully Ray, who had a vicious Last Man Standing match with Mr. Anderson.
Their rematch, at Turning Point, was also engaging and concluded the Aces & Eights storyline, ending a significant chapter in TNA history. The ratings don’t work in their favour for what was supposed to be such an important event, but a number of factors related to roster cuts made a negative impact on the magnitude of this once great faction and storyline. Despite these truths, the event succeeded on a thematic level by being a verifiable turning point for TNA. The end of a significant chapter allows for a new one to begin--- a new chapter that is already beginning with the Dixie Carter Championship tournament to decide a new champion while AJ Styles travels the world defending the “former” title.
Whether it’s a thematic point, an athletic/entertainment point, or a ratings point, three of four TNA FFV’s have succeeded. With this new format still being tested and developed, TNA has yet to fall and the evidence suggests they will continue the upward trend in producing a unique, PPV quality event, separate from Impact, in January with Genesis 2014. Is there a point to these?
My answer is “YES”, so long as TNA can continue to promote the cards well, link to them thematically, and push the wrestlers who will engage and entertain the audience to watch the show (live or on TV). The right guys are involved and new ones are slowly being introduced to provide more unique reasons to tune in.
What’s your opinion, boys and girls? Do you have a favourite FFV? Do the FFV’s match up with the PPV’s? Do they stand out from a regular episode of Impact? It’s discussion time in the schoolhouse! I’m all ears!
It works for me. Being British I've never had to pay for a TNA PPV anyway, but even if I was in the US I wouldn't buy them - I'd never pay for a WWE PPV either. It's one thing to do a PPV for a genuine sporting event, but really wrestling PPVs are little more than an extended episode of a weekly TV show. You don't get them for other TV shows, so why should wrestling fans suffer? To me, wrestling shows building up to a PPV are like soap operas building up to a monthly movie.
That's just me though, I realise other people will see things differently. On the whole, I like the new format of TNA's product. With only 4 true PPVs a year, they can be built up properly with long term storylines and they can become genuinely big events. To keep the product moving, the FFVs are a good way of letting the casual viewers know when to watch and could potentially draw in more people who may continue viewing on a weekly basis.
However, I definitely think that they should run them on a separate night - or at least get an extra hour for the Thursday nights they have the FFVs. Like you said, running Hardcore Justice over two separate weeks didn't work. If the FFVs are going to be pushed as big events, they should be treated as such. Leaving them in the standard 2 hours Thursday night slot (or Sunday night for us in the UK) doesn't make them stand out in the way they need to.
On the whole though, I agree that the new format is working and long may it continue.
I enjoy them, I watched Turning Point last week and was actually happy with how it ended. They had a solid undercard, and the Main Event, far from a 5 star classic was still enjoyable and served it's purpose.
These FFVs remind me of the days when WCW wasn't running a PPV every month so they would do Clash of the Champions, which to my knowledge was always on a Thursday Night, proving you can put on a solid ppv style show during the week and people will watch.
I wish WWE would take note of it, and offer PPV style cards for free, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.
But for now, I think TNA is on to something here, honestly they should do away with the ONO PPVs and just stick to 4 Live PPVs a year and either do a PPV style show every 4 to 6 weeks. It may not gain TNA money now, but long term it could be the best thing for the company.
Quite glad someone brought up Clash of the Champions! To me it's very much in the same vein as that, and it's a conceit that I've always liked a lot and I'm glad to see back. I do like the idea of having them separated a bit further from the average episode though, perhaps a slot on a Sunday night or something to help set things up and give a little more time for TNA to ply their trade. I worry with only 2 hours a week they aren't always able to fit in everything they would like to! Virtually every segment they now have serves a purpose on the night so it's not a matter of poor time management, just a matter of not enough time in general. Ah well, we shall see.
Very keen analysis here, absolutely smashing work using facts and figures to back up your line of thinking. I'm definitely hoping they continue these, and my only request is that they stay very aware of their actual PPVs as being the top events. Judging by the way the storylines blew off track before BFG, I would hate to see a pattern of overemphasizing the FFVs and then phoning in the actual PPVs. Priorities, after all!
Love to see you outside the show review bubble Mr. Cool, hope to see it again soon.
I'm a big fan of the 12-PPV format personally. Perhaps it's because I came from a time where PPV's cost $25 as opposed to $45, there was 3 hours of WWE a week instead of 10+, and there was only one show a month as opposed to 2 or 3. I think using 4 weeks to build to the next supercard just worked.
I don't mind TNA having free supercards or one-night-only PPV's. But I do think moving to 4 PPV's a year was a step in the wrong direction for them. And naming these shows is almost as bad as gimmick Raw's. Perhaps if they moved these supercards to another night like SNME or COTC, I could get behind it. But they shouldn't be trying to put PPV caliber cards on episodes of Impact.
Your analysis on the situation was really interesting. Will read next time.
my problem with the x division (whatever happened to no weight limits btw?) is that it sort of feels as if its MITB lite, but then again that IS negated by the fact that the x division champ doesnt ?HAVE to relinquish it, so I guess thats moot. Actually now that I think about it, its actually a cool premis. Kudos TNA.
Also Im a big font guy so I appreciate the font (garamond or is it century gothic?) but fuck you for making me read about TNA again
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Good class participation on this one so far. I'm impressed.
Dynamite, Ghost, Miz & Zombie:
Some of the general consensus is that these FFV's should be on a different night and I kind of agree with that. It would certainly make them stand on their own and be treated as a "special" event, outside of the norm. I'm uncertain if TNA has the finances to do that or not, but a few standalone events broadcast on Spike would work.
If they were all kept as PPV's, I certainly would be watching less TNA. I don't have the kind of income that permits spending $40 a month, with the potential for more if there's a good WWE PPV that month. There's the thing that TNA needs to ensure doesn't happen...this idea of ordering only the good PPVs.
If each of their 4 sunday night PPVs is built up well and has matches people want to see, TNA won't have to deal with people's doubts about whether they should order it. TNA has 4 major opportunities a year to engage wrestling fans in a way that will make them want to follow Impact more regularly OR at the very least win over casual fans who will decide to spend money on the PPVs when they come up in the calendar. I feel like the FFV's are a great assistance to TNA in showing what they're capable of producing. They help gain the interest and trust of the fans to want to buy a PPV when it comes up.
TNA just announced a December FFV: Final Resolution so I'm interested to see if that's where they'll have the tournament championship. Surely an event like that would stand out more on a Sunday night or another night...but then they run the risk of the regular Impact viewers missing it. Not everyone keeps up with weekly schedules and current events so well. With under a month to go, they likely wouldn't have enough time to promote it on a different night. For now though, replacing an episode of Impact with an FFV works and I think TNA will continue to gain more viewers with them in 2014. Like MizFan said though, they've got to deliver a better PPV. Thankfully it seems like they have until March with Lockdown to work up to it.
Uncle Joe: Palatino Linetype and I refuse the "fuck you" part of your message and will now read it as "thank you".
The Underage Pessimist
Nice to read something else other than your Impact reviews, J. This was strong as ever. Some solid insight sprinkled throughout the column and nice layout. Well done!
As for the FFVs, I like them when they're done with some effort. I really liked Destination X and Turning Point this year. But when they went haywire with the Sabin story and the road to BFG, it took away some of the luster. Most of the stuff was good, but there was some really bad stuff, too.
TNA should continue on with these. It is a nice way to build up their TV shows, and reduces their costs, too. Since they don't have to rush the storylines from PPV to PPV every month, these shows give them a chance to build characters and make the matches seem more important. A little more focus would go a long way. These special Impacts are a nice way to build viewership and I would like them to carry on. Their product is in a good state now, so we can only expect good things in the near future.
I actually thought the first two FFVs were better than the last two. Turning Point and No Surrender simply felt like regular Impacts to me.
While the ratings bump cannot be overlooked, TNA should really keep these to a minimum. Wasn't the point of reducing the PPV number from 12 to 4 - other than to save costs, presumably - to help bridge the gab between shows? In other words, they would have more time to build a feud on TV rather than having the first encounter take place at a random PPV? Having a free PPV every month doesn't slow down the storylines at all.
Good column, though.
JCool- Never worry about stepping out of the box. You are a skilled writer man. This column shows that you can feel comfortable taking chances. I'm at times quite annoyed by how good of a writer you are from a technical standpoint lol. Considering that is my area of greatest frustration as a writer, I look to your columns and appreciate your abilities on that front. I will say I think you would attract more readers with more pictures. It breaks up the content more and as a few MP guys have been saying around here, the average audience up there wants that and responds most to it. I'm saying that because honestly, I think it would be refreshing to see someone (like you!) On the MP at least providing a voice for TNA fans cause honestly all I see up there is pure bashing of it. I think you have the format, the technical chops, and I think there is an audience for you on the MP. (Sincerely) I always enjoy your columns.
As for insight on topic, I think it might be a good idea for TNA to start putting these FFV's on a different day/time slot and advertising them more! It would make the audience feel more like it is a big deal as opposed to just another Impact with a special name cause as you eloquently put in this column, some of these FFV's have been great (nice job tying ratings and match scores into your point by the way!).
Great job Mr. Cool
JCool! My man, going in on the gimmick - absolutely loved it, think you nailed that side of things and left us with a nice talking point at the end. This was a great read from top to bottom, technically great and really, really good analysis.
As for the question - I think the FFVs are working for TNA and they're settling into a good style with them. The fact the BFG felt like more of a long Impact episode than any of the FFVs that have followed seems pretty significant, to me. The switch to less PPVs has helped TNA in that respect, as every so often you get these really well hyped shows. I thought the first one of the year was particularly timely, being as it was well built up and providing the pay off to a good few storylines that needed to be done. I think there's probably room for improvement in them here and there, buy they're getting to the point where those episodes I really, really anticipate.
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