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"Life in the UK"
Dixie Carter is the President of Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wrestling, a role she has held since the spring of 2003.
Dixie began working for the company in 2002, handling marketing, PR and promotions. Two months after TNA was formed, they lost one of their major funders, and Carter helped the company secure funding after seeing the potential in a marketplace that had one other company, WWE, with a $900 million market cap and no competitor. The businesswoman from Dallas, Texas contacted her parents, owners of energy company Panda Energy International, and they bought 71% of TNA, which began trading as ‘TNA Entertainment’.
Q. Before becoming president of TNA, how much did you know about wrestling?
I watched wrestling when I was younger. I lived in Dallas, Texas so the Von Erichs were a very big deal, and my brother and I used to watch Saturday morning wrestling, but before I got involved with TNA I had not watched the kind of modern day wrestling. At that time it was only WWE that was television.
Q. What were the advantages and disadvantages of being a female owner in what has been seen as a male dominated industry?
I think that it’s a total advantage. I feel blessed to have the greatest job in the world but I feel I bring a different perspective to what I do. I care tremendously for my guys (wrestlers) and because of that I think we are a very tight company, very close and it’s real. I think because of that they have a different ownership and stake in the success of it. When parties care about each other and they work hard for each other, the fans are the ones that benefit from it because they see that it is real.
Q. How important has the British market been for TNA, with the house shows, television tapings and the recent British Boot Camp?
The British market has been essential to our success - absolutely essential - because I think it’s our first market where we’ve not only been competitive with our main competitor, but have actually had more success in television ratings and things like that. The UK was our first real break-through market and it has given us so much and helped build a great foundation on which we’ve been able to build worldwide.
Q. With the success of British Boot Camp on Challenge TV, do you think we will see a second series?
British Boot Camp was a tremendous success, I’m so proud of what’s happened there. I think the UK has been so great in supporting us and the British fans. I want to help build back British wrestling; there are so many great, talented people over here and we’ve got some exciting ideas.
Q. What is the likelihood of there ever being a UK PPV at some stage down the line?
People always ask me about having a PPV in the UK and here is the only reason why I haven’t done a PPV: not as many people watch the PPVs as the television show, and I want millions and millions of people to see it worldwide. I think it would be great because you would see longer matches and there won’t be any commercial interruptions and things such as that. I wanted to showcase the British fans, I wanted them to be seen worldwide by everybody so people know how fantastic they are. Yes, eventually we will hold a UK PPV.
Q. You have rebranded TNA’s PPV schedule, cutting down from 12 to four per year, what was the reason for that decision?
To cut down the PPVs was a difficult decision because you’re giving away millions of dollars to both your top line as well as the profit line on the balance sheet. We do have success in that. It’s always been the traditional way of doing wrestling but I feel we’re in a place right now where we have to shake things up and we need to look at things differently.
It is a big financial risk on our part to do without it but I feel like it will make the PPVs we do much more special and I really feel it will make television mean more. We’ll have an opportunity to let programmes breathe, give away more PPV-quality matches on television, and then when we do have a PPV I know everyone of my guys are going to be fighting to be on that card and it will just be interesting to see how that plays out.
Q. How will the One Night Only series differ to what’s been done before?
It is so hard to build up a paid PPV-quality card in just four weeks, so here is a chance with this One Night Only series to come up with a dream concept and to put dream players in there. There doesn’t have to be back stories: you can create dream match-ups or see a certain gimmick. We are going to be having a lot of fun with these and I think we’ll come up with some really great programming.
Q. Will we see TNA take flagship show IMPACT! on the road more in America over the coming years?
That is the goal starting this year. We’re close to making a big announcement, another one besides the PPVs, which I think will have a great impact on the show, pun intended. Taking the show on the road is the natural next step for us. It’s expensive touring and it’s not that I haven’t wanted to be on the road but it’s a business decision just like losing the PPVs. I’m not going to put this company in any financial trouble, so everything we have done has been very conscious, people were saying we weren’t going to stay in business for ten weeks and here we are going into our 11th year and having more success than ever and that’s because we make good business decisions.
Q. During that eleven years, what have been some of the key moments for TNA?
The key moments I think have been when we went to prime-time in the United States, I think the television tapings at Wembley last year, and the UK tour in general have always been a highlight every single year for us.
When Kurt Angle first came over from the WWE, that was such a big announcement and we were able to keep it so quiet, and it was such a huge shock for everybody. The Hulk Hogan announcement at Madison Square Garden we kept very quiet. I’ve learned in wrestling if you don’t want somebody to know about something, you can’t tell anybody. There have been lots of highlights and there are just too many great moments that have happened in the ring to even talk about or I’ll be here forever.
Q. TNA had great success in India with Ring Ka King early in 2012 and have just signed a new TV deal in Australia. Are there new markets your looking to explore, or is it more about building on the markets you’re already in?
I think it’s both, I think right now our programming is seen in more than 120 countries worldwide and I think we’re up to 17 different languages, but there are still a few pockets like Australia. We’ve been in Australia and they’ve just picked up British Boot Camp and we have just renewed with them. We’re in negotiations with India right now and have a couple of great options.
We are looking at a few new territories that we’ve not been in but really growing the success like we’ve had in the UK and making certain territories around the world even bigger than they were originally. More programming, better ratings, more exposure in the markets.
Q. What does the future hold for TNA as a whole?
Expanding outside of wrestling I think is important in order to grow the core product globally. Coming up with more licensing and sponsors, more programming - in the United States we just have one show and our competitor has ten hours of television a week so it is hard to compete. We have more television in the UK and that shows you how competitive we can be when we have more exposure, so that would be our goal in the United States. Again it’s not because I haven’t wanted to, it’s just contractually I haven’t been able to due to our contract agreement with Spike TV. But that is changing as well. I think all of these things combined will make for a very interesting 2013.