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Will Anthem sell GFW?



Last week, just days after I wrote about the lack of a brand or place for Global Force Wrestling on the current wrestling landscape, there was another reported shift in management. Jeff Jarrett, NWA-TNA and GFW founder, took an indefinite leave of absence from the company. This move took place less than two weeks after the AAA TripleMania show, an event that was surrounded in controversy.

Sexy Star refused to release an arm bar and intentionally injured Rosemary in one of the most unprofessional acts ever seen inside of the square circle. It goes without saying, Sexy Star should be banned from the business and never employed by a professional organization again. Along with that, Jeff Jarrett, who had a series of questionable appearances in recent years, worked a battle royal at the AAA event and looked to be intoxicated. Similar incidents occurred at smaller independent shows as well, including Double J allegedly being intoxicated at an IWA Mid-South show in 2014, and at a WrestleCon event in 2016 that saw Karen Jarrett spit on fans while an impaired Jeff Jarrett argued with security.

Double J undoubtedly had an accomplished career and is apart of one of the most notable wrestling families in the history of the sport. This isn’t a jab at him. I actually met Jarrett twice, once when I was younger and then again several years later at a TNA house show in 2011. He was very polite both times so I sincerely hope that he can recovery from any problems.

That said, “the show must go on” and the situation doesn’t put GFW or its future in a favorable view. In fact, after Jarrett’s dismissal, rumors began to swirl that Anthem, the parent company of Canada’s Fight Network, was ready to sell the promotion to avoid the debt associated with the project.

Anthem’s Ed Nordholm, president of Impact, made an appearance on the Wrestling Observer radio show last week to address the speculation. Of course, Nordholm denied any reports of a possible sale and claimed that Anthem planned to invest into GFW. Make no mistake about it, if a sale is in the cards, nobody within Anthem will confirm it until the agreement is finalized.

In the interview, Nordhom said the wrestling business was, “more complicated” than he thought it would be when Anthem bought Impact. He also sounded unsure of himself when he answered questions with very generic responses that lacked any major detail. Most importantly, the president of GFW didn’t explain how the organization plans to monetize its product in any realistic way. He also said that he wasn’t a fan of wrestling previously, and there are many former WCW figures that could fit that description as well, which didn’t benefit the Turner company in the 90s.

Quite simply, Nordholm doesn’t sounds like he actually knows how to run a wrestling promotion or the nature of the business. That’s not to say that he’s not working hard, either, but rather the reality that he simply might not have the background to progress an organization in sports entertainment. The bottom line is, within a year of the purchase organization, and six months of the rebranding, Global Force continues to be surrounded in controversy.

When Anthem bought the promotion at the beginning of this year, they essentially bought the ability to have a TV time slot in the United States, which is a valuable asset, and the tape library. They didn’t buy an established brand. The entity they purchased was in debt to a variety of sources, including a tax lien from Tennessee. There was also a completely negative perception of TNA so what exactly did Anthem expect when they signed a deal to buy the company?

There was a conference call for the group last week when they informed the public of several developments within the organization, a move that was probably an attempt to garner some positive PR more than anything else. However, while some of those announcements might seem like progressive steps on the surface, a more realistic look puts the situation into the proper perspective.

One of the major aspects of the Anthem business plan is the launch of the Global Wrestling Network, a streaming service that will basically be the GFW version of WWE’s network. In theory, this is a solid idea because it attempts to use the TNA video library, perhaps the most valuable commodity that Anthem owns under the GFW umbrella, to generate revenue. At $7.99 a month, the service will give fans the chance to watch the extensive TNA footage that spans back to 2002 and contains some of the greatest matches of the decade from AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, etc. The problem is that with such a limited audience currently watching the product (more on that later), how many fans will actually pay $8 a month to watch more TNA?

Keep in mind, there are some classic matches in the TNA vault, but there are also the angles that garnered the organization a lot of criticism as well. Does anyone want to pay to watch the Russo angle that saw Samoa Joe get kidnapped by ninjas? Again, to put it in prospective, the WWE Network has roughly 1.6 million subscribers, and still offers a free month to new subscribers to attempt to boost numbers. Remember, those 1.6 million subscribers are a result of WWE’s global TV to “sell” fans on the streaming service. Considering the amount of TV the WWE produces, the thousands of hours of content available on the WWE Network, the two hours of weekly Impact, and independent events, are a substantial amount of fans really going to pay for a GFW streaming site?

Sure, there are diehard fans that will watch anything professional wrestling, but with more entertainment options than ever before, even an $8 network isn’t an automatic sell. If WWE cuts back on network production costs to ensure a profit and still try to boost numbers with a free month, how exactly is Anthem going to sell fans a pay service? Low ratings are an indication that people aren’t watching Impact on free TV so there’s no realistic reason to expect a profitable online service. For example, Impact last week garnered 227,000 viewers, one of the lowest ratings of the year. This is why the another announcement from the conference call that Anthem signed for another year on Pop TV isn’t exactly good news. Granted, it confirms that Impact will have a television presence in the United States, but as I wrote last week, Pop TV just doesn’t have the TV clearance that will make it possible for the company to make a profit.

The bottom line is, will Anthem sell Global Force?

During the Observer interview, Nordholm said that a sale is not a consideration, but what else is he going to say? Despite the public comments and Anthem’s multi-million dollar corporation, the Fight Network isn’t going to continuously fund a project that doesn’t make a profit. Nordholm said himself that Impact isn’t profitable yet. The GFW project is based upon capitalism so even if there isn’t a timetable for profit, there will unquestionable be a time when Anthem decides it’s not worth the debt. At the same time, any “fans” that somehow look forward to a potential Global Force shut down are extremely misguided. Nobody, not even the WWE benefits from one national company. Sinclair Broadcasting owns Ring Of Honor, but Sinclair is in the television business, not the wrestling business.

There’s nothing wrong with that because Sinclair uses ROH as an original content provider and at the same time ROH has a stable future. Sinclair knows the ROH niche and also knows that it would be an extremely expensive venture to attempt to compete directly with WWE. The point being, if Global Force finally closes its doors, there will be talented performers without a place to work and it also limits opportunities for those within the industry. If anything, the entire TNA debacle proves just how difficult it is for a national sports entertainment entity to establish itself. The WWE has such a major market share that it would be exponentially more difficult to launch a major promotion now than it was even in years prior.

The key will be if Global Force can become a profitable venture because that’s ultimately what will keep them in business. The basis for anything nationally in the sports entertainment genre is the TV platform because everything is sold based on that. The ad revenue is based on ratings, the ability to build angles to “sell” pay-per-views, advertise live events, and establishing stars to use to generate revenue in every aspect of the company are all things that are marketed through television. As I said, I don’t think Pop TV is a realistic network to use for GFW to become profitable so at least for now the answer about a possible sale depends on how much money Anthem is willing to spend to keep Global Force Wrestling in business, because right now, there’s no realistic indication that the company will become profitable on the Pop TV network.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta