On today’s episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with Wrestlenomics business analyst Brandon Thurston.
The NHL have announced seven-year media rights deal with Turner Sports. The agreement will see regular season, Stanley Cup and Stanley Cup Final games televised on TNT and TBS starting next season and running through 2027-28. Thurston commented on how Turner’s new deal with the NHL could affect AEW.
“It could mean that Wednesday night hockey comes to TNT. It could mean that Wednesday hockey comes to TBS,” Thurston said. “Maybe a streaming service, that seems less likely but I think it’s possible that this affects AEW, but we’ll see.
“They couldn’t go to Tuesday or Thursday because of the NBA, which is definitely on TNT. So what will be left but, Monday and Friday? Maybe they work something out where AEW can stay where it is, and who knows, TNT is not necessarily the home for that, but it could be.”
WWE have signed their own big deal with Peacock. The WWE Network is currently only available outside of the U.S., and Hausman asked Thurston if fans and pundits will be able to access Peacock viewership data.
“No idea,” Thurston admitted. “Peacock has reported how many users they have, but I find it extremely hard to unpack. The only thing that I think will be meaningful is if they told us the viewership for live content, for WrestleMania or Fastlane on Peacock. In terms of subscribers? I don’t know how you even calculate that because if you’re a Peacock subscriber, you get access to the WWE Network, but you get access to all sorts of stuff, and who knows why you’re retaining your subscription. Maybe you’re retaining it because you’re watching The Office? Or you’re watching Murder She Wrote. There’s a ton of content now that WWE is just part of a bundle in.”
WWE live events have largely come to a halt due to the pandemic. However, WWE have still been making money through their TV rights deals with FOX and NBC Universal. Thurston broke down how WWE could be affected if they were to go back to touring full time.
“Well, if they go back to touring, the biggest thing is they’ll get to do Saudi Arabia events again to the tune of $50 or $55 million per show, and that’s by far going to outweigh any loss that they might have in the live events division,” Thurston explained. “So before the pandemic, most quarters that weren’t WrestleMania quarters in there live events segment, they lost money. They lost operating income. Now you can say there’s a number of hidden values in running live events that don’t just appear on a quarterly report, but the ThunderDome is extremely expensive.
“If the pandemic disappeared today and they went back to touring, their production expenses will be lower by touring and running RAW and SmackDown live in arenas. The ThunderDome is that expensive. What was really cheap and did save them money was when they were running TV out of the Performance Center without the ThunderDome. That’s when they were saving a lot of money, but ratings were really dipping in that time, and one of the responses was to invent the ThunderDome, which they’ve done with partners. So that’s become more expensive. Kristina Salen, who is the Chief Financial Officer, mentioned that they’ve learned how to make it more efficient.
“Didn’t get into specifics in this quarter, which we’re referring to Q1 vs. Q3, so it’s a little bit less expensive, but they have said something to the effect of it’s 30% more expensive than it would be if they were touring. But the biggest takeaway about what they’re going to get out of returning to touring is there going to be able to do Saudi events, which offsets any loss that they would incur from going back to their old live event touring schedule, which it’s not certain that they will. Maybe they just won’t do house shows anymore. Maybe those are something that’s drastically cut down on or just a thing of the past entirely. I would imagine they do fewer house shows, but we’ll see.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonThurston. The full audio and video from Brandon’s interview can be heard below: