MR. TITO: Which Network Will Sign AEW to New Television Deals? Warner Bros. Discovery or Others?

Right now, All Elite Wrestling(AEW) is within the exclusive window of negotiating a new television deal with Warner Bros. Discovery before their existing deal expires during late 2024. Reportedly, AEW earns around $45 million per year and there are reports that their initial deal offering from Warner Bros. Discovery was around $110 million per year. Also, some places have reported that AEW President/CEO Tony Khan was reportedly upset at that offer. If that is true, things could get interesting once the exclusive window with Warner Bros. Discovery reportedly closes sometime in July.

If AEW cannot get a brand new deal with WBD, then they will be free to seek a new television deal. They would be a free agent, able to join a new network with (hopefully) a good financial deal.

But what is out there?

Not sure if you’ve paid attention lately, but Cable/Satellite and Streaming services are hurting. Cable/Satellite are rapidly losing subscribers (getting near 70 million households versus mid-90s just over 10 years ago) while streaming services are not profitable. Just announced today, Paramount Global announced a merger agreement with Skydance and this follows Paramount Global having around $16 billion in debt.

The host of AEW, Warner Bros. Discovery, has $44 billion in debt by comparison and yet the alarm bells were going off on Paramount Global for having almost $16 billion in debt. WBD appears to be losing the NBA coverage, as they aren’t willing to pay over $2 billion per year like NBC, ESPN, and Amazon reportedly would. Warner Bros. films are just bombing at the box office, as the DC Comics universe turned out clunker after clunker while other film properties have failed as well. WBD also has big contracts with the NHL, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA basketball tournament along with signing a content deal for College Football with ESPN.

Meanwhile, Netflix has shrugged off its competition… While they’ve become profitable, the other streamers have not such as MAX, Paramount+, Disney+, and Peacock. What these executives didn’t realize is that they made MORE money licensing their content to Netflix or other channels rather than hosting the same content on their cheap streaming service. Who would have thought?

The WWE has signed lucrative deals with Comcast/NBC/Universal and Netflix for major increases in what they received earlier. While Smackdown on USA Networks received a decent bump, WWE going to Netflix was gigantic. Usually when WWE joins your network, they demand exclusive wrestling rights for that channel or platform. Thus, strike off any possibility of Netflix or anything Comcast/NBC/Universal related.

Who has the chance to sign All Elite Wrestling (AEW) to a deal? Let’s look at the possibilities:

#5 – Paramount Global – Just because they are getting acquired and have $16 billion in debt, doesn’t mean they can’t do business either. They just have the NFL deal on their books for sports leagues, while being heavily reliant on Paramount, Viacom, and CBS shows and movies as properties. MTV, VH1, and Showtime are still out there (would be GREAT on Showtime for adult content) and I personally love me some Paramount+ as a streaming service. If this group just didn’t seem so indifferent about pro wrestling, I’d buy in.

#4 – Disney – Disney was reportedly interested in adding content to FX and AEW might be a great fit there. Problem is that Disney has high debit themselves at $46 billion (wow!), as many of their recent films have bombed, ESPN is expensive, and their sports league purchases are gigantic. They are still servicing debt from the 20th Century Fox purchase.

#3 – Amazon Prime – Amazon is now heavily invested in NBA and NFL, so thus I don’t expect them to spend more money on live content other than being dedicated to them. Maybe as I’ll mention in the next opportunity, if they split shows with WBD and themselves.

#2 – Apple TV – These guys have remained quiet on the live content forum, besides MLB and MLS, but they add AEW to complement those two offerings. Maybe AEW splits between WBD and Apple TV, with Dynamite remaining on Warner and Collision going to Apple. Apple seems like it has the most capital available to make an easy purchase.

#1 – Warner Bros. Discovery – Yes, they have a ton of debt, but they have a ton of properties that can be licensed to bring back said debt. As long as WBD doesn’t merge with another company, those costs could come down with time. They could also sell the Warner Bros. properties to an Apple TV or Amazon for an easy $80 billion to get back into the game, if needed, and just become a TV channel platform like FOX did a few years ago. The fact that WBD owns a stake in AEW is telling to me and even if they give like $150 million, that’s still cheap programming per year for the network. If AEW can make a WWE Network like thing with MAX, that would enhance this deal.


Look, AEW should be praising the WWE’s recent growth, while the WWE should praise AEW for their growth since 2019. WWE’s proper use of Roman Reigns and building the Bloodline storyline has changed WWE’s fortunes for the better. WWE was in the dumps during 2019 and AEW appearing like a valid competitor has rejuvenated the WWE. In return, WWE’s recent success as a company could make many Cable/Satellite/Streaming providers think that “wrestling is in a boom period again” and AEW could benefit by WWE’s success.

I think Warner Bros. Discovery is in the “catbird seat” and I believe we’ll hear of a new deal between them and AEW in the upcoming weeks. If $110 million is offered, then AEW could counter that for AEW Dynamite only and allow them to shop Collision and/or Rampage around. I could see AEW Dynamite on WBD, an “AEW Network” on MAX, and placing Collision/Rampage on other services including Apple TV or Amazon Prime. AEW has to realize that diversifying their television product will allow them to maximize revenues, as WWE has between NBC/Unverisal and FOX (soon to be Netflix & CW). Otherwise, placing all of your chips on 1 network will give you headaches as TNA has endured with being dependent on 1 network.

Yes, AEW is declining in viewership and are consistently below 800,000 viewers. However, WWE was declining in viewership when they inked their 2019-2024 big deals with NBC/Universal and FOX. Then, when WWE rebounded with business growth, they broke the bank with their next deals with Netflix, CW, and NBC/Universal. As Scott Hall once said, “bad times don’t last”…

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