AEW President Tony Khan recently spoke with Steven Muehlhausen of DAZN for an in-depth interview covering all things pro wrestling. Here are the highlights:
DAZN: At DAZN, we’re a subscriber base business. People view us on only subscriptions. People view you guys based on only ratings. Do you feel too many people make a big deal out of ratings?
Tony Khan: “I don’t know. I think it’s important. It seems like a metric that wrestling fans have followed for decades to track promotion success. It didn’t really become a thing that was widely publicized and disseminated not just among wrestling fans but even by media covering wrestling. There’s been a lot more interest in it since the Monday Night Wars of the ’90s. It’s a metric that stuck with us, and people have used to track the success of promotions. I think the ranking is what’s emblematic of what’s happening in TV at that time and place. In the current cable and satellite universe, there’s a ton of money in rights fees. It’s brought a lot of interest to the pro wrestling business, and I’ve been able to leverage it into building a pretty big business over the last few years.
Our competition, WWE, has done a great job building their TV business and generating huge revenues through multiple TV properties. No company besides them has ever generated hundreds of millions of dollars through TV and pay-per-view, as we have done in our relationship with Warner Brothers Discovery and the pay-per-view business we built for AEW. AEW is doing something special, and it’s only possible because of the wrestling fans around the world who’ve supported the business over the last few years.”
DAZN: Would you view 2022 as your hardest year as a promoter because of all the injuries, and then what’s happened with your competition with Vince McMahon (gone) and with Paul Levesque (now in charge)?
Khan: “I wouldn’t compare that to the stuff we were going through in 2020 (with the pandemic and the passing of Brodie Lee). That was horrible. But with the pandemic and shows being shut down, no live fans, having to figure out ways around that. Brody getting sick. So your original question was, what was the hardest year? Yeah, that was for a multitude of reasons. Like I was saying, I don’t think those are all necessarily bad things. The wrestling business is benefiting, I think in a lot of ways from changes. You asked about it with the injuries. Well, we’ve responded pretty well to those, and people that have been out for a variety of reasons are all starting to come back. There’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re getting close to the end of that tunnel in many ways.
Now the competition changing, I think that’s a good thing in some ways. If you like good wrestling, you’re just more likely to want to see it because our competitor has been doing better shows recently than they had been doing, I think. I watch them pretty often, and I think they’ve been better. It seems like that’s the consensus among people who watch them. I do think in general, if it’s gonna get more people watching wrestling, that’s probably not gonna hurt any wrestling company. And we stand to gain the most in many ways because if you’re a big wrestling fan, and if you’ve been away and you like good wrestling, you might be saying, ‘Where are Chris Jericho and Bryan Danielson? CM Punk’s back?’ So as we get to an exciting point of a lot of people coming back to the company, but a lot of new fans also, I think hopefully they want to embrace the new wrestlers in AEW and also a lot of the big names in AEW that you’ll be able to see on a regular basis, people that are on the show every week and have been going all summer like Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. Then again, whenever CM Punk is back, there’s a big setup for an undisputed championship to be crowned.”