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All Elite Wrestling finally made its television deal official today, as they announced that they will be airing on TNT later this year. However, terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed and since they’re not a publicly traded company, they aren’t expected to be. Thankfully, some trustworthy reports from both John McMullen and Andrew Zarian have given us a good idea of what to expect.
Both agree that there is no rights deal in place. That means TNT isn’t paying to air the product, however, it isn’t a time-buy either. Similar to the XFL deal with ABC and FOX, the Warner Media Group will be covering production cost for the show. Additionally, they’ll be getting a revenue split. McMullen calls it an “unprecedented deal for a start-up” and clarified that Warner is treating it as a sports property.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of the deal.
All Elite Wrestling TNT Deal | The Positives
The biggest plus is that they got on a notable television channel that has a history with professional wrestling, even if it’s nearly two decades ago. TNT is a name that all cable television watchers are aware of, so this is a win even if it can’t match the visibility of the XFL landing on multiple networks. However, they are getting a revenue split and production handled. It’s a great step for a company that hasn’t produced a single show yet (remember that All In was largely handled by Ring of Honor).
Another thing in their favor is that they now have a digital streaming platform in B/R Live. This is where I see the future of AEW going, as they can mobilize their fans to pay for a monthly streaming service. This is exactly why ESPN made such a huge play for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so they could use that to kickstart their own subscription service. Don’t be surprised if AEW is used in that same way down the line.
One big plus to having television is that a digital platform only exploits a niche rather than grows it. Sure, they could get a ton of their loyal fans to subscribe to B/R Live, but that’s not how you get lapsed wrestling fans back into the fold. Their TNT presence has a chance for them to make new fans, and gives them a shot at growing the company. This is all important as they’ll need to get their own supporters, rather than just siphoning jaded WWE fans and the hardcores that already have AEW shirts.
All Elite Wrestling TNT Deal | The Negatives
As their “Tuesday Night Dynamite” trademark would suggest, All Elite Wrestling originally had their eyes set on a Tuesday night time slot. However, that doesn’t seem likely to happen at this point. First of all, TNT airs NBA programming on Tuesday and Thursday nights and that’s a much more valuable property than wrestling. It’s not getting bumped for that, so expect to see it on Wednesday unless they want to go head-to-head with WWE.
There’s also no rights fees attached. That doesn’t mean All Elite Wrestling won’t be making money off the television deal, as they do have a revenue split, but it means their performance will be all the more important. They have to bring numbers to advertisers and make their product a brand that people want to be associated with. That’s easier said than done, and they’ll need to perform if they want to negotiate a better deal when this one is done.
Perhaps most troubling is that the deal also revealed that they’re sticking with a traditional pay-per-view structure for their big events. For Double or Nothing, they’re expecting fans to fork over $50 on B/R Live to watch it. That’s a ridiculous amount considering how much cheaper both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and WWE’s streaming services are, and is the opposite of being disruptive. If it was a low-cost deal on B/R Live then they could actually make some waves, but this is more of the same and catering to a niche that is already heavily saturated instead.
Check out today’s WrestleZone Daily podcast that breaks down the big AEW TV deal with live reaction from fans: