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August 26, 2009

Q&A with Dixie Carter

I conducted a phone interview Wednesday with TNA president Dixie Carter, who discussed Kurt Angle’s arrest, Jeff Jarrett’s status with the company, TNA’s new deal with Spike TV and more.

Carter will make her first appearance on Impact on Thursday’s episode to make an announcement regarding TNA star Bobby Lashley.

TNA and Spike TV recently agreed to a three-year extension. What does that means for TNA moving forward?

It’s a huge deal for us. We’ve been with Spike four years now, and in that time period we’ve more than doubled our viewing audience. We’re almost at like two and a half times where we started. And we’ve moved time slots three different times and two different days, and it’s just a testament to those loyal wrestling fans out there to continue to follow us and to continue to allow us to grow. Spike is extremely happy and they’ve been very, very good partners, but we look forward to growing new programming with them as well as other networks

Why did you choose this time to make your first appearance on Impact?

Well, I’ve been asked nonstop when I’m going to be on television. I don’t have a problem being in front of the fans, but I just like it on a much more personal level – being able to talk to them and listen to them and thank them for helping us grow. But it’s also my job to help promote TNA, and there’s just been so many great things going on for us lately – the Spike signing, and Bobby Lashley is a really unique signing for us as well. So it was just time for me to come on and talk about a couple of the things happening.

dixie-carter.jpg

Have you thought at all about moving Impact to either Monday or Friday night to go head-to-head with Raw or Smackdown?

I think that you’re going to see some different things with us and Spike. I think that’s our goal going into this. Do we know specifically what they’re going to be? No. Does Spike love us for Thursday night on their network? Absolutely, they do. Is that our preference? No. We would love to be up against Raw on Monday night.

Can you talk about the decision to keep the TNA world title on Kurt Angle at the pay-per-view a day after his arrest?

I can talk about it to some degree because it’s an ongoing legal case. I was briefed on the details of what happened, and I also know that people are innocent until proven guilty. And I think just like most sports franchises these days, they let the legal system do what they do best and you await the outcome. And that’s what we did.

Is Rhaka Khan still with the company?

Yes, she is currently a TNA talent.

Can you comment on what Jeff Jarrett’s future is with TNA?

Jeff’s been working on a lot of different things for the company. He’s been working with me on developing new programming in kind of a bigger capacity in some ways, but that’s been his focus as of late.

Is there any timetable for his return to TV?

Creatively, no. I don’t know. I would assume sooner than later, but I’m not sure exactly story line wise when that will be.

How much input do you have in the creative direction of TNA?

I’ve had more and more input as of late, but I’m also the type of person who puts people in place, and as long as structure is being followed and we’re seeing positive results, I like to let people try to do what they do best. I don’t pretend to be a wrestling booker, but I do know when we’re having success, because a lot of other parts of the business are impacted by that, as well as our relationship with the network. We’ve made a lot of changes this year over the last six or seven months and we’re starting to really see positive changes in ratings, and we’re just ready for those to continue to grow.

Were you a wrestling fan before your involvement with TNA?

I was a wrestling fan growing up. I grew up in Dallas, and the Von Erichs were gods there, and I was a Hulk Hogan fan. I watched Saturday morning wrestling with my brother all the time. But I quit watching wrestling as a young adult. I just did not like what was on television; it really didn’t appeal to me. I booked wrestling in college a little bit but had gotten away from it until I started talking with the TNA folks back at the end of 2001, early 2002.

You booked wrestling in college?

Yeah. I went to the University of Mississippi and I booked wrestling for us several times on campus.

So they were independent shows?

I booked mostly out of Memphis. Ric Flair and those guys up there. Jerry Lawler. At one point I think I even had Jeff Jarrett, even though I didn’t know him at that point. We’ve had a couple of weird accounts. I think I booked him at Ole Miss, and then we used to live absolutely next door to each other in Dallas right after I graduated from college.

Are there any plans for TNA to come to Baltimore or Washington?

It’s absolutely on our target list to come to. I think it would be a great market for us. Our ratings have really started to grow in both the D.C. and the Baltimore markets, and it’s a goal for us to get there and bring a big show.

This is kind of a broad question. What other plans do you have to expand the brand?

I think it’s very, very important for us to get more programming. A great case study is in the United Kingdom right now, where we have three or four shows on in a given week, and we’re not just beating ECW like we’re doing in the United States on certain weeks, but we’re beating all three of our competitor’s programming. Two weeks ago, we were No. 1, Raw was No. 2, Smackdown and then ECW. Literally our ratings were double what Raw’s were, not just ECW’s. We’re being more competitive internationally because we have more programming. And Spike understands that and recognizes that. We’re going to have more programming with them. We’re talking to other networks. We’re going to have more exposure on other networks as well. And that’s going to help us grow in the United States faster.

You mentioned more programming. TNA’s women’s division is something that has set the company apart, and there was speculation a while ago about doing an all-women’s show. Was that ever seriously discussed, and if so, is it still a possibility?

I don’t know. That’s something that could happen at some point. We’ve just announced that we’re going to have a women’s tag team title, and with the Knockouts title as well, that’s making them a much bigger and more important part of our show. I have to tell you, if you tune in to Impact Thursday night on Spike, you’re going to see the Hamada versus Daffney no-DQ match that was unbelievable. You will not see that anywhere else in the world. The Knockouts tag title tournament – there is some really, really good stuff. We’ve made some changes with the girls the last couple months with the signing of talent, the agents working with them, et cetera, and I think you’re going to see a whole, fresh, exciting vibe to the girls.

One of the criticisms of TNA – and WWE as well – is that there has been a failure to create new stars and it’s always the same veterans at the top. In TNA, it’s all the former WWE and WCW stars. What are your thoughts?

I think as a newer company we have to have exposure. And we have to have that using name recognized talent. So these guys that have come in – the Mick Foleys, the Kurt Angles, the Stings, the Booker T’s – they have come in with such a great understanding and respect for the fact that they’re there to help grow and expose TNA to more fans, and also help us get our own TNA original or homegrown talent over. And if you’ve watched the show of late, you’ve already started to see a tremendous shift in focus on going from those veterans who have helped us in such a great way to seeing these young guys getting their due – A.J. Styles, Matt Morgan, Hernandez, Beer Money, Samoa Joe, and I can go on and on. If you watch, I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to use that criticism toward TNA.

We’ve seen owners and executive in other wrestling companies become characters on TV. Do you have any interest in doing that at some point?

I can only be who I am. I’m not a character. Will you be seeing more of me on Impact or in other places in visible roles? That is my role, as long as it’s supportive of what we’re doing. There are a lot of great business things going on for the company out there, and I’m the one right in the mix, and it makes sense for me to do it on that level. But as far as being a character and being in a love triangle, no way.

***
NOTE: In regard to the ratings in the United Kingdom, according to various wrestling Web sites, for the week of Aug. 2-8, Impact had 67,000 viewers, Raw had 50,000 and Smackdown had 48,000. A replay of Raw later in the week had 29,000, and a replay of Smackdown had 44,000.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 10:22 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Q&As
        

Comments

thanks .

For the week ending August 16, 2009


Impact from August 13... DID NOT make Bravo's top ten charts,
therefore drawing 39,000 or less viewers for the week (the prior
week's show did 67,000 viewers, for comparison reasons). The streak of
Impact beating Raw and SmackDown in the UK is over.


Raw from August 10

- drew 62,000 viewers in the live timeslot (+12,000 viewers)

- drew 37,000 in the Thursday replay (+8,000 viewers)


SmackDown from August 14

- drew 52,000 in Friday's first airing (+4,000 viewers)


Ian Hamilton

www.theringsidelive.com

One of the things people need to know about Impact's success in the UK is that it's broadcast on Bravo which is avaialble in the basic subscription packages for all of the UK's satellite and cable networks.

Raw and Smackdown on the other hand are both broadcast on Sky Sports 3 which is only available as part of Sky's premium sports package.

The Basic Sky package works out to be £16.50 (just under $27) a month and the premium sports package is £35.50 (about $57.50) a month. Sky offer 2 other Sports packages but neither of those offer Sky Sports 3. You need to subscribe to the premium sports package to get Sky Sports 3.

All this means that Impact has a much larger potential audience than Raw or Smackdown has in the UK so Impact beating Raw and Smackdown isn't totally unexpected.

I wouldnt exactly call it a tremendous shift in focus to the younger talent. Are they brought in on skits and inane storylines? Certainly.

Therein lies the problem: Overhaul Creative as you did the wrestling talent themselves.

Give us wrestling!

I'm impressed that TNA has been doing those numbers here in the UK, but I would add one caveat. TNA is on the Bravo channel, which comes with your basic Sky package. WWE programming is on Sky Sports, for which you have to pay a monthly premium of about USD$40. So not as many people have access to WWE shows in the UK as they do TNA.

It will take another 8-10 years for TNA to beat WWE. Now days, WWE has new-gen. fans and they dont care about the "attitude era" of the 90's and dont even know most of the old wrestlers who were in WCW/WWF once and now wrestle for the TNA. I think Dixie Carter is trying to get more people to watch Impact by showing more violence and P-13 stuff on her show,similar to what Vince McMahon did when WCW was beating Raw...its just not gnna work anymore, TNA needs newer stars, not washed up wrestlers.....

Huh, so a Monday Night Wars 2.0 could be in the offing? Yes, Raw's ratings have supposedly benefited from the guest host format but I wonder if it's just a smoke and mirrors thing and if TNA were in direct competition fans might consider checking it out when faced with yet another nonsensical 30 minute opening like last week.

the reason TNA beats RAW in the ratings over here is because the live Raw is on at 2 o'clock in the morning,its then replayed on a Thursday @ 5pm.TNA is shown on bravo @ 10pm.

I'm sorry, but Dixie Carter is gonna have to try harder to get us to believe her when she says they want Impact on Mondays opposite Raw. Impact struggles to beat Superstars on WGN on Thursdays. It would not even make an appreciable dent in Raw's numbers, especially if Raw could return to some semblance of consistency and quality programming. I suppose one day TNA could be a legitimate contender, but it is certainly not happening now, and Impact on Mondays would be a disaster.

"A great case study is in the United Kingdom right now, where we have three or four shows on in a given week..."

Does TNA have shows other than iMPACT! that air in the UK only on different nights of the week? If so, why aren't they on here in the US?

I prefer TNA to anything WWE does, with the exception of Morrison and Punk from Smackdown, but my biggest complaint of televised wrestling is nonsense storylines (lazy writing) and a lack of push for new folks. I actually started watching TNA because it was NOT Angle, Foley, etc. Now I put up with them to see Styles, Hernandez, Beer Money, etc. I'd much rather watch the young guys.

So if TNA is on the basic package why isn't WWE? You would think WWE could get a better deal in the UK than TNA.

This is something I have been wondering for a LONG time...is this the same Dixie Carter who was on Designing Women??? PLEASE answer this, it has been boggling my mind FOREVER. I cant picture that same woman in running a wrestling company...

RESPONSE FROM KE: No. The Designing Women Dixie Carter is about 25 years older than the TNA president.

Defo agree with Bowch and Jobbers.
Even if WWE is being watched by only half the audience of TNA, you've got to remember that the WWE are paying a premium just to do so. This shows that they are loyal fans and are more likely to spend money on PPV and do so.
The TNA audience however is just watching the shows and the PPV's for free in the basic package. It shows no real loyalty from fans.
Its wrong of Dixie Carter to assume TNA is bigger than the WWE in the United Kingdom.

"the reason TNA beats RAW in the ratings over here is because the live Raw is on at 2 o'clock in the morning,its then replayed on a Thursday @ 5pm.TNA is shown on bravo @ 10pm."

^ innit, they shouldnt get so chuffed about that and should be aiming to put together a better program.

i was a little disapointed, she doesnt seem to have much creative direction.. tna is good right now and getting better but its needs some focus.

From a UK perspective, while TNA is on a 'free' network channel and WWE is on a premium subscription package...That doesn't in any way mean TNA have the better deal. Bravo is famous in the UK for extreme gameshows and soft porn and is a small channel. WWE is broadcast on BSKYB. BSKYB is a multi billion dollar media gonglomerate in the UK and Europe, owned by Rupert Murdoch...The Australian version of Ted Turner!

I'd hazard a safe bet that WWE is getting a massively more lucrative deal than TNA financially. And WWE have 3 weekly shows, 2 round up shows, Vintage collection and LIVE monthly pay per views...TNA have Impact and taped airings of PPVs broadcast a week or so after they happen. If you add WWE's total viwers weekly together it will dwarf TNA's. Take it from me, WWE's exposure is far greater in the UK than TNA.

I have to dissagree with u Rob if TNA came on Monday's I'd probably watch it instead of Raw because there show has been very stale as of late while TNA keeps getting better and im sure I know a couple ppl that would agree as for TNA not being able to beat out WWE superstars u gotta be kidding me that shows a joke almost as bad as Sunday night Heat was.

TNA runs unopposed ever Thursday night and still barely beats Superstars, which is on in half of the markets Spike is. We hear how the ratings for Impact are almost 2 and a half time better than what they were when they started on Spike. I would hope so considering it use to air Saturday nights at 11, it shouldn't be too hard to improve. ECW still beats or puts up similar numbers to Impact. Do any of you really think that if Impact were to move to Mondays Vince wouldn't step up things. He's already to start up a cable network with in the next 2 years (not the WWE 24/7 network that already on). Crushing TNA and buying the video library and other rights would give him all the motivation he needs.

Im glad that you ask about TNA coming to the area. Its nice when a couple of the wrestlers come here for MCW but I would love to see a entire TNA live event here. Now the question is will they really come here for a show?

Hi Kev,

I think Dixie's points on this are valid to a certain degree, but when she had 3 to 4 times the potential viewership, and only gets about 10,000 more, does that count for anything? Do you think the UK ratings matter Kev?

From the week ending Aug 16th, c'mon they beat RAW,SMACKDOWN &ECW the week Kev & Ms.Carter note, who cares, give the little engine that could some props. When TNA started I was living in FLA, to see the show as I remember you had to have Direct TV and it came on in mid afternoon on like a
Monday, nobody and I mean NOBODY expected this company to get out of it's first year and look at them now. All of you so - called smarks whine,cry & b---- for somebody to give VKM some competition, over and over how the business has suffered from the "1" company monopoly, but all you do is criticize the only competition that survived beyond all doubts and hopes. Look none of these shows will ever not be constantly critiqued and many times rightfully so, but the streak is over, maybe it has just begun. You would think after 8 dead Bush years,a near depression, our 401 k's becoming 101 k's people might start to realize that monopolies are NEVER a good thing. You would also think this country and Europe learned this 70-80 years ago with the first depression, but no most of you morons think that we should let the business' oversee themselves(just like Vince) and the market will prevail. My as--their market is their world with their profits and their money and GOD help the pitiful fools that disagree, I know years ago I could watch some kind of wrestling show on cable near every night of the week, and weekends morning,noon and night, did a lot of it suck -- hell yeah, but it was on, this is a business and a show that throws things out, fresh,old,redone,foolish and psychotic and sees what sticks, that's the business we all grew to love, that's the business that learned from it's mistakes or folded, but at least we had plenty to watch, numerous characters and shows that knocked us off our seats and shows that put us to sleep but we had choice,variety and plenty of shows to watch. Now what do we have, the VKM NETWORK, all Vince all the time, lamer than any BS AWA high school match playing at 3am on a Thursday night. Stop burying these companies and let them play, the cable idiots would rather play non-stop SHAM-WOW and Cooker/Steamer info's now than wrestling, what would you rather watch when you can't sleep, any wresting is good wrestling and the more constant "smarking" on the net the less likely cable is to run a show, are you telling me you would rather have the same infomercial on 6 channels then watch even a 3 year old re-run of an ROH show, a Maryland Championship Wrestling Show, hell any wrestling show. We have killed our own sport/entertainment with bad publicity and until it stops we can all SHAM-WOW and Extenz ourselves to sleep. Please start a campaign to bring us back some "rastlin", Vince owns all of the old stuff and charges for everything, get some Indy's on cable at 2AM, who cares that how Texas got started, at first the only time you could see the Freebird's & Von-Erich's was 8AM or 3AM, then they hit big, we can do it again. If you guy's really love wrestling as much as you say, you can do it.Unless what you really love is just being "CRITICS" if that's the case,critic on.Done.

I stopped watching wrestling after WCW died. TNA peaked my interest in wrestling again. I think competition with the WWE makes a better product for both brands.


"as for TNA not being able to beat out WWE superstars u gotta be kidding me that shows a joke almost as bad as Sunday night Heat was."

I said it's a struggle for Impact to beat Superstars.

8/20/09 ratings

TNA Impact 1.2
WWE Superstars 1.0

8/13/09 ratings

TNA Impact 1.0
WWE Superstars 0.8

Just so we remember what we're dealing with here, this is TNA's flagship show and WWE's 'D' show, a show that like Sunday Night Heat, features basically no storyline advancement, just good wrestling. The two shows are on at two different times, and it would be interesting to see them go head to head, but the fact that they're so close shows that it's insanely premature for Dixie Carter and TNA to think about running Impact on Monday nights. I think in July Impact was beating Superstars by a little bit wider margin, but it hasn't been consistent really. Even going back to June, you have Impact scoring a 1.1 on June 26 while Superstars had a 0.9 rating. So, yeah, Impact does struggle to beat Superstars.

Too bad you did not ask Dixie about former TNA Knockout GAIL KIM, but then that is old news after all isn't it.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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