Rumors have been swirling about how the upcoming, backed by billionaire Shad Khan wrestling promotion AEW will be distributed on television. Tony Maglio of The Wrap reported last week AEW was in “advanced talks” with Turner to air a weekly show on TNT. Maglio added this week, in an interview with the site 411 Wrestling, AEW may have to pay for its time on TNT. Longtime wrestling writer, Dave Meltzer, has disputed several of his details including the day of the week it would air on and whether it will be broadcasted year around. Meltzer is adamant that AEW will not have to pay to be on television.
While nothing is settled, and reports continue to be conflicting, it appears many are overlooking the impact of AEW being put on highly distributed television.
Sure, AEW has a lot to prove, but if they land on linear television, on a channel like TNT, put me down that they will be a real game-changer to the industry right away. The WWE’s product has been diminishing now for a few years, but as we all know, wrestling fans have had no other real option. All their competitors, Impact, NJPW, and Ring of Honor, are inconveniently on television channels either most people don’t know exist or don’t even have access to. And unlike those three promotions, AEW already has serious star power behind it.
For the first time since the days of WCW, a promotion not named the WWE holds the rights to best overall talent in North America. That is what Kenny Omega instantly gives AEW. Those that haven’t witnessed him perform may find that hard to believe in a world with Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Becky Lynch, and Roman Reigns. To that, I bring you some moments from his fourth match against Kazuchika Okada, which is perhaps the greatest match ever put on:
Omega is not alone, either. He will be joined by some of the most entertaining talents in wrestling such as Cody Rhodes, the Young Bucks, Chris Jericho, and Pac (who performed as Neville in WWE). Also, nobody would be surprised if some of the disgruntled WWE superstars like Dean Ambrose, Sasha Banks, and Luke Harper join them as soon as they are free to do so.
Maglio is right in that they need Turner more than the other way around. However, AEW can have a profound impact on Turner. Say AEW averages a million viewers a week — that is about half what SmackDown draws on USA. Add in the possibility of them putting the PPVs on B/R Live. Based on how quickly they are selling out events, AEW would become a major asset to Turner by moving PPV sales on B/R Live with a different audience than the soccer-consuming one they have now.
Putting the PPVs on a streaming service, a la the WWE, will be a major source of AEW’s value. This is why DAZN makes logical sense as a destination. With that said, there has been no indication they are interested. The same goes for Disney who can stream it either on ESPN+ or the upcoming Netflix rival Disney+. The weekly AEW show would be a great fit on ESPN2, though once again there has been no indication this is a possibility that’s in the cards.
I get it — AEW is unproven. They are building from the ground up. But it sure doesn’t take long to add this all up an envision a scenario where multiple companies are battling for their rights in three-five years. Get on it now.