Too often, those in the wrestling bumble don’t see the bigger picture, and mosr of All Elite Wrestling’s diehard fan base will fall into that category, but the business of sports entertainment yields much more cache in the corporate world than who had a seven-star match at the Tokyo Dome.
Without getting stuck in the muck of the corporate landscape, Discovery plans to merger with Turner Media, and as of now, it looks like only a matter of time before all the approval hurdles are cleared to consolidate more main stream media entities. Truthfully, the “work” of the media business in how it can spin or construct narratives for mass consumption is almost as notorious as those in the pro wrestling industry, but that’s another discussion for another time. The point being, the executives in the suits have more power over the wrestling project than the dirt sheets online.
It’s a natural comparison for the term “media merger” to be made to the AOL/Time Warner deal that eventually saw WCW fold, but the assumption that this Discovery merger would impact All Elite is misguided. Of course, over the years we’ve heard countless opinions about what saw World Championship Wrestling sold to Vince McMahon for pennies on the dollar, and those opinions are usually shaped by how much responsibility someone wants to deflect for the fact that WCW went from the biggest wrestling company in the world to out of business in the span of just over three years. Eric Bischoff, the guy that signed a lot of talent to unrealistic contracts to get them to WCW, puts the blame on Jamie Kellner, the executive that ultimately made the decision to cancel World Championship Wrestling from the Turner line-up. Sure, Kellner was the guy that made the call, but he wasn’t responsible for the collapse of WCW as a national entity has enough blame to go around for several key figures. The bottom line is, Kellner canceled World Championship Wrestling because the organization infamously lost $60 million in 2000. The bottom line is, if WCW was making a profit, it would’ve stayed on the air.
The television business is a very unique industry and there are times that the dynamic of that particularly business helps and hinders the sports entertainment industry.
As much as some might be concerned about a repeat of WCW, with a network executive that just doesn’t want wrestling on its channels, the comparison to AEW is almost apples to oranges. Sure, if a corporate suit is willing to sacrifice revenue and ratings, which are key to the entire television business model then All Elite might theoretically be in danger.
Just like anything else in the business world, cash is king.
As of now, All Elite Wrestling draws consistent ratings and ad revenue that makes it a profitable entity for Turner Media. Until AEW isn’t making the network money with commercials and ad revenue, most of the speculation is moot. Again, if WCW made a profit in 2000, Kellner wouldn’t have cancelled it just a few months later. Keep ind mind, outside of the wrestling bubble, the media business is evolving with the numerous streaming platforms that can distribute more content cheaper with the newer technology, and that can ultimately garner a bigger profit margin for the networks. Instead of the requirement of a certain level of a cable package to be able to subscribe to HBO, technically anyone with an internet connection can subscribe to HBO Max for the streaming content. We’ve seen in recent years that the technological advancements can also be a hurdle for networks as well, particularly with the use of DVR and other on-demand content that could allow viewers to fast forward through the commercials. That ad revenue is the primary way the networks make a profit, which is why there was such an emphasis on live sports content in recent years, and one of the reasons the WWE landed their major TV contracts.
One of the many reasons that professional wrestling was a staple of early television is that it’s relatively cheap to produce compared to other shows. All Elite Wrestling has a live show every week and averages around a million viewers for each episode of Dynamite. The consistent ratings along with the fact that it’s live sports programming, something that Turner added to its line-up before the merger with the addition of NHL games, makes AEW a priority regardless of what corporation owns the Turner networks.
Just for the discussion, if Discovery didn’t want to re-sign All Elite when the TV contract expires in 2024, there are a lot of options for them. Considering the amount of TV series that get cancelled every year for a lack of ratings, there are several networks that would want to air a show that would consistently draw a million viewers each week. The Paramount Network, formerly the channel that was Spike TV, might be an option for AEW.
On a brighter note, assuming that Discovery will want to re-sign All Elite as a long-term commodity, it would pave the way for the AEW streaming service since the network already has the platform. As I’ve said before, the most valuable entity from the Ring Of Honor purchase was the video library because there are hundreds of full-length events and episodes of television that can be used as the foundation of a streaming service. The bottom line is, as long as All Elite Wrestling can generated ratings and thus ad revenue for the Turner networks then the company isn’t in any realistic danger. However, it will be very interesting to see how the Discovery merger affects the networks and if new management will have any effect on the content of the AEW shows.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta