Home Tony Khan weighing his many media-rights options for AEW, Ring of Honor

Tony Khan weighing his many media-rights options for AEW, Ring of Honor

Chris Graham
tony khan
Photo: All Elite Wrestling

The wrestling interwebs are melting down over what will happen in 2024 in terms of media-rights deals for AEW and WWE, because of course they are; smart marks think they know everything about the wrestling business, including the business part.

(Spoiler: They know nothing.)

AEW founder Tony Khan, who is staking his inheritance on getting a big deal out of Warner Brothers Discovery or, you know, somebody, feels pretty good about where he is with the calendar about to flip to 2024.

“We have a great relationship with Warner Brothers Discovery, it’s amazing,” Khan said this week on a media call to promote AEW’s “World’s End” pay-per-view, which is scheduled for Saturday night.

Khan, it must be noted, loves the word great, and other adjectives implying positive vibes, so take that first sentence there with a grain of salt.

He’s just getting started with the happy talk, is what I’m saying there.

Khan does seem to be due a rather hefty rights-fee increase next year, with his contract with WBD coming up, and WWE setting the market in the $250 million-$300 million range for weekly wrestling TV shows.

What has the smart marks going at each other is the rumor mill speculation to the effect that WWE has reportedly put out feelers to WBD about moving its flagship “Raw” show from USA, which will become home to “Smackdown” next year, to either TNT or TBS, both of which currently are home to AEW weekly programming.

Khan doesn’t seem concerned that whatever is going on between WWE and WBD will hurt his business.

“You know, this coming weekend marks the five-year anniversary of the launch of AEW, and we announced the formation of the company on Jan. 1, 2019. And here we are, days away from the five-year anniversary of that, and Warner Brothers Discovery has been an indispensable partner throughout this journey,” Khan said.

“I’m very excited about the future of AEW and excited to work with Warner Brothers Discovery throughout 2024, and going forward after that, there’s going to be a lot of exciting conversations about AEW’s media rights. It’ll be a very exciting year, and a lot of things are going to happen. We have a great situation with Warner Brothers Discovery, and it’s been a great year for that partnership,” Khan said.

What you might read between the lines there is, if WBD is going to take a look under the hood with WWE, AEW might do the same to see if it can find other suitors in the TV marketplace.

Pro wrestling, like other live sports, is still able to command hefty media-right fees because it is broadcast live, and because its fans don’t want the happenings to be spoiled for them as they browse the internet and social media.

This is a big part of Khan’s calculus as he heads into 2024.

“Both of us are looking at a big pay raise this year for ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Raw,’ and ‘Raw,’ having made $265 million a year last year, for them to get a pay raise, that’s gonna be a really big number for them, and for us, it’s a lot of money, too, you know,” Khan said.

“Frankly, I think it’s crazy with sports economics, you know, you talk about these numbers, and it’s like, you know, like $50 million wasn’t a lot of money,” Khan said. “It was a lot of money, you know, we’ve been getting paid year over year for ‘Dynamite,’ and it’s gonna be a lot more for us going forward. Both shows are probably due for a big rights-fee increase, and frankly, percentage-wise, especially ‘Dynamite,’ because of where we started, and how we perform.”

For Khan, whose $43 million a year media-rights deal with WBD increased to paying out $68 million this year with AEW launching a second signature weekly show, “Collision,” in June, it seems to stand to reason that his next TV deal could be in the range of $200 million-$225 million a year for his weekly programming, which also includes a third show, the one-hour “Rampage” that airs on Friday nights on TNT.

Khan is also shopping around TV rights for Ring of Honor, which he has been making available on a subscription basis since buying the rights to the brand last year.

“I know that there is a lot of interest in pro wrestling, and judging by the market I’ve had, with lots of interest in Ring of Honor, which I’m holding, and looking forward to having extra cards to play later in the coming year in such a negotiation, and knowing that there’s a ton of interest in ROH and that product right now from outside parties, and knowing that there’s far, far more interest in AEW, multiple times more, and far greater rights fees out there for AEW in the future, I think it bodes very well in the market, knowing that there will likely be a lot of suitors for AEW, and following what’s happening in pro wrestling,” Khan said.

Yes, that’s a long string of thought there; such is the effort to try to keep up with the thinking of Tony Khan.

His options going forward could be packaging AEW and ROH together, splitting the two in separate TV deals, or perhaps following the model used by WWE, which has had its “Raw” and “Smackdown” shows on different networks, under separate, lucrative, media-rights deals.

“We’ll find out for sure as we get closer to the end of the year, potentially, although I have to say, it’s really, really great working here at Warner Brothers Discovery, and if anybody came in, it would have to be a heck of an offer, because we have a great thing going here, and I would, you know, all things being considered, this is a great place to be, so I really do value the relationship, and I think it’s in a great place,” Khan said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].