Television

'We hope to build the TNA brand in India': TNA EXECUTIVE VP ANDY BARTON

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For little over a decade now, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, commonly referred to as TNA, has emerged a strong competitor to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Headquartered out of Nashville, Tennessee, TNA is a privately-held American organisation which deals mainly in professional wrestling with other sources of revenue being live events, product licensing and direct product sales. In India to promote the brand in a big way, Andy Barton, executive VP of licensing and international television distribution, TNA, spoke to Sidharth Iyer of indiantelevision.com about TNA’s journey so far, the India connection and the road ahead.

Excerpts from the conversation...

As someone who’s been with TNA since inception, how has the journey been for you so far?

My background is in the field of entertainment and it is very gratifying as what we do is very different from any other form of entertainment and we are a 360-degree company. We own and control everything; we produce the television content, we own and control our live events program, the licensing of consumer products, so our job is basically to produce content and monetise it.

In this unique form of entertainment, most of the content that is seen around the world is exported from US. Save for Mexico which has two very vibrant companies and Japan that has about five, there is no home-grown wrestling other than America and Japan.

How does it feel coming to India and what are your plans for TNA here?

I had come to India last year and got talking to several people, and when we left mid-December 2012, we felt that the fit was so good with Sony Six - they are a young brand and so are we, compared to our respective competitors.

The excitement they have generated with The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and some of the other properties they have, like the Indian Premiere League and NBA. The excitement they showed about marketing our product in those two or three hour long meetings we had last year and the way they spit balled ideas, we felt even they want what we are looking to do with our brand. The rest is history.

How do you plan to promote TNA in a big manner in the Indian subcontinent?

We have plans but the number one priority is to build the brand; we know that WWE has been on air here for over 15 years, so the first biggest step for us is to build the brand in the country and from a promotional stand point, we are looking for some local talent, as it will build connect with the audience much faster if they get to see a local wrestler fighting it out with the best in the business.

This time round, we have come with a three city tour lined up over the next few days and have superstars like Kurt Angle and Gail Kim to promote the TNA brand. Finally, it boils down to the live events that we plan to conduct in the country to give that touch and feel factor to the fans, who will be able to build a better connect with their heroes and get to know them up close and personal.

There is a huge opportunity in the live event space, because if you go back in time, WWE came with a live event to India way back in 2002 with RAW’s Tour of India. We at TNA do believe that we have to get on the ground and take advantage of the fact that we have such an interactive show. So, it’s all about building our fan base one by one.

WWE has a substantial lead over us, but if you have a home depot at one corner, then you have a lows depot at the other. So, competitors bring out the best in each other; but if you really see the time that WWE has been in this space all by itself after WCW went out of business, we have provided that competition to them over the past 12 years and to keep doing that, it requires hard work, capital, advertising and commitment of our talent.

Speaking about commitment, for our three city promotional tour in India, Kurt Angle, our hall of famer is here to promote the brand on his birthday and is away from his wife and two kids for the benefit of the company. I can’t ask for anything more.

What are your views on the biggest competitor that you have in WWE? How are you pushing the envelope to gain a bigger market share?  

Let me give you a global perspective; we at TNA play the long ball and this strategy relates to the entire world. If we look at the UK market - we have pushed ahead of WWE there and our show is watched more in comparison to WWE week in, week out. Ditto for Germany. In the US of course, it’s going to be tough to carve a space when there is already such an old and established brand and the same is with India.

But looking at the history of the wrestling business, there have been a lot of brands that have come and perished like Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and obviously World Championship Wrestling (WCW), that was tremendously successful but it just boggles your mind that a company that was making that kind of money and was hugely popular went bust.

There is healthy competition and WWE’s product is different from ours and it’s all going to come down to hard work and it is imperative that we sign on an Indian talent. We have earlier ties with India when we produced ‘Ring Ka King’ with Colors which gave us production capability in the country. We also opened a wrestling school in India.

As far as professional wrestling in India is concerned, there isn’t a lot that is happening in this space. I think if we can help with the infrastructure and help the people in India who are interested in getting into professional wrestling.

It is a well known fact that many wrestlers move from one organisation to another from time to time and also make the move back; how does this work?

Well, it’s something that depends completely on the superstar, in Kurt’s case - he has been with us for an equal amount of time that he was with WWE. Similarly, Gail Kim too was earlier with WWE, then made the shift to TNA, went back to WWE for a short stint, and has ever since been one of our leading superstars.

Such movements don’t generally work for everyone, but if you take a look at our wrestlers compared to WWE, we are more on the road than them. So it is really encouraging for young talent that wants to be on the road for 300 days a year. And at the end of the day, it’s all about promoting young talent for the industry and keeping the roster fresh to keep the audience hooked to the show.

That said, there comes a time in every wrestler’s time when he has fought everyone and there is no storyline left for him to play either the good guy or the bad guy. That’s when they plan to move across to other brands and refresh their own identity and again strike a chord with a newer set of viewers.



As far as professional wrestling in India is concerned, there isn’t a lot that is happening in this space. I think if we can help with the infrastructure and help the people in India who are interested in getting into professional wrestling.

We also look at how good the wrestler is with the microphone and his overall presence and accordingly align his image and expect things to work out, but we end up making mistakes many a times and do things to make it better.

How does the company go about with different storylines and scripts? And how does it generally work?

Like for soaps, we have writers and script writers, there are outlines given, ideas that come up and then there are ideas that are dismissed altogether. So the process is very similar to that in any other creative field.

The process may start with the storyline or with the star, so we intend to use the potential of the talent by using an interesting storyline and seeing how the audience reacts to his personality. But the process is very similar to any other show, where we have people sitting around the table and just bouncing ideas off each other.

Finally, what does the future hold for TNA globally and in India?

Well, it’s only going to be growth, growth and more growth. WWE has been in its incarnation ever since Vince Junior took over from his dad nearly 30 years ago while we have been around for 12 years. So, I think it is for us to create the legacy of an entertainment company that will last and thus, we need to sign more and greater talent, more live events, better storylines and so on.

We have no off-season, we work all 52 weeks a year - so the toll that it takes on the staff is immense - from those who write the show, to the crew that works on VFX and post production, from the ground staff to the wrestlers and referees.

In terms of India, this is the genesis of something big. I see many more visits to the country; we will be ensuring that we are in constant touch with our fan base out here through various initiatives, and I hope that within a short span of time, we will be able to build the TNA brand and further hold live events here that will be telecast globally. We hope to bring down our superstars and get them to put on a full three hour show and sign autographs and interact with fans here.

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