By Dave Gilbert
By now I am sure you all know that Impact will begin airing on Destination America every Friday beginning January 16 from 9-11 PM EST. Some fans and critics feel that moving to Friday nights is a bad move for the company, with that time slot being described as the ‘Friday night death slot’.
The theory is that people would rather go out and do other things instead of staying in and watching TV on a Friday night. Proponents of the theory point to many TV shows being moved to Friday nights after delivering poor ratings, with those shows ultimately being cancelled. Shows such as Prison Break, Vanished, Raising Hope, Touch and Utopia were all shifted to Friday night time slots and were eventually cancelled.
In 2005, the UPN network moved WWE Smackdown from Thursdays to Fridays following poor ratings and according to Wikipedia, UPN also moved Star Trek: Enterprise to Friday nights at the start of its fourth and final season in 2004. The show was pre-empted many times that season and suffered low ratings, with many choosing to watch the weekend replays instead. Ugly Betty, Firefly and Moonlight also suffered cancellations after being shunted to the ‘death slot’.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to TV ratings on a Friday night. Recently, CBS' Ghost Whisperer ran successfully for five seasons on a Friday. Other shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Perfect Strangers, Full House and Family Matters ran for multiple years on a Friday.
That brings me to my point. It’s easy to think that Impact is starting at a disadvantage or that Destination America is not showing much faith in their new program, but I think that would give TNA and supporters of that position an excuse. If Impact’s ratings are poor, then it will be far too easy to say that it’s because of the lousy time slot.
Here’s the truth – If TNA produce compelling, exciting and ‘can’t miss’ television, then people will watch it, no matter what day the show is aired.
I didn’t watch Breaking Bad when it was first on, but I have since watched the whole series and believe it’s some of the best TV ever produced. If Breaking Bad aired on a Friday, I would have preferred to stay in and watch it than go out, but that might just be me. Good TV makes that decision tricky; bad TV makes it easy. It’s up to TNA to decide what kind of TV they produce.
Now, don’t forget DVR ratings. The way we watch television has changed dramatically over the years, and networks do pay attention to the ratings generated by people who DVR the show and watch it at a later date.
From How Stuff Works:
Most networks use Nielsen’s Live Plus service to track ratings. Live Plus looks at who watched shows on their DVRs within different time frames. Generally, it tracks three major categories: Live-Plus-Same-Day, Live-Plus-Three and Live-Plus-Seven. Each one looks at a broader time frame, so Live-Plus-Same-Day looks not only at who was watching when the show aired, but also who watched the show that day and the next. Live-Plus-Three and Live-Plus-Seven track who watched within three and seven days of the original airing, respectively. When Nielsen first rolled out its Live Plus service, network executives were uncertain, but it’s become an industry standard.
I think the ‘Friday night death slot’ theory is rather old-fashioned. I think it applies more to a time where the only real way to watch a show was to catch it live. Now, we can DVR the show or watch it on streaming services. Networks realize this, and although strong ratings during the live broadcast is the preference, I don’t think having a show on a Friday night is as much of a death sentence as it once was.
Again, it’s up to TNA to make people stand up and take notice of their product. It needs to be fresh, exciting and more importantly, it needs to get people talking. Viewers and fans of the show need to be telling their friends who might have never watched wrestling that they need to check out a show called Impact Wrestling on Destination America. There’s nothing stopping TNA from making this happen – let’s just hope they do.
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