As noted earlier this week at this link, AEW and WarnerMedia announced that they have extended the contract for AEW Dynamite on TNT through 2023. It was also announced that the two sides have agreed on a new AEW TV series to premiere soon.
It was later reported, via The Wrap and Variety, that the second series appears to be AEW Dark, which currently airs Tuesdays on YouTube. The matches are taped before and after the live Dynamite episodes on Wednesday. That report noted that Dark will be coming to TNT with some changes, and may not air for 52 weeks per year, likely due to other programming on TNT. Turner President Kevin Reilly said, “We’re going to embellish [AEW Dark] and put some additional material, kind of behind the scenes, kind of docu-follow stuff, if you will, about the athletes and the stories.”
The new extension is said to be for 4 years and $175 million in rights fees, just under $45 million per year, and that the deal also includes TNT having an option for 2024 at a significantly increased price. In an update, Dave Meltzer reported in the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the new deal will be worth about $19 million per year for the company since TNT will no longer be covering production costs for the show. The production costs totaled around $500,000 per week, or about $26 million per year.
The new deal includes an option for TNT to keep the show through the end of 2024 at a significantly increased price. The deal also has annual escalators built in. The Observer noted that the move protects TNT because there can be no bidding war to increase the cost of Dynamite, which is what happened with WWE’s RAW and SmackDown during the most recent negotiation period, ending with huge money for WWE.
The new deal will make AEW profitable in 2020 and the years to come. AEW President & CEO Tony Khan was hopeful that AEW would be profitable by the end of 2020, but the original deal would likely prevent that. Khan previously said that AEW would need a miracle for 2020 to end up a profitable year, and this new deal with WarnerMedia is that miracle. Another benefit for AEW is that it just about protects them from being taken off the air through the end of 2023 if the ratings were to decrease. The Observer also pointed to how there are always ways to cancel programming or change timeslots/channels in the TV industry, and how AEW is pretty much taken out of the negotiation game if its TV value greatly increases until the beginning of 2025 if the show gets hotter and ratings increase, or if the value changes as sports rights fees continue to go up.
Besides the additional $19 million per year, the company will make an additional several million more for the “new” show when Dark hits cable. It was noted in The Observer that the new show likely will not air on Sunday, Monday or Thursday because AEW President & CEO Tony Khan has an agreement to not air AEW against the NFL because his family owns the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wednesday is obviously taken for Dynamite, and Tuesday is unlikely due to TNT’s commitments with the NBA, but TBS would be an option. This leaves Friday or Saturday for the new AEW show to air on TNT.
The ad-split aspect from the original deal will be continued, something WWE does not have in their TV deals. The new weekly, taped show on TNT would increase the amount of advertising time from what they have been getting a percentage of.
It was noted that despite the report on Dark going to TNT, the show could end up on another Turner station. The show would be taped on Wednesday nights, before and after Dynamite as they do now with Dark. TNT has wanted to essentially move Dark to TV, but AEW’s idea was to keep a weekly internet show, then try and do a second TV show as a brand name show, according to the Observer. We noted earlier this week how AEW announced a new multi-year signing in Taz, and word now is that he will be one of the announcers on the new TV show.
When the new show does launch, AEW’s Wednesday night tapings will expand to include matches taped for that show, and for the internet show they keep. This means that the AEW TV events will run for around 4 hours each week, which could be tough on the crowds. Another benefit of the new deal is that AEW will now be able to showcase more talent with the extra show, and sign more talent with the extra revenue.
With the new deal, AEW is now the #2 pro wrestling company in the world as far as revenue goes. The Observer noted that the value of the deal, when including the ad split, is worth more money than New Japan Pro Wrestling grosses through all of their revenue streams over the course of a year, and it makes AEW profitable.