Tony Khan Reveals Idea For AEW Started From TNT Being Interested In WWE TV Package

AEW President Tony Khan recently spoke with Monaco Streaming Film Festival about the ins and outs of running a company like All Elite Wrestling. He took some time to explain how he approached AEW operations when COVID-19 first started massively spreading in the US, noting how laying off employees wasn't an option for him.

"I didn't do what my competition did, which was mass layoffs. Laying off dozens, and dozens, and dozens of people, which I have yet to do," Tony explained. "There eventually may come a time to cut my costs and do it but not in the middle of a global pandemic, or even in the wake of a global pandemic when work is hard to come by. It was not the time to do it. And even though it hurt the bottom line of the company to keep some people on who weren't even coming to the shows. They were staying home because they were worried about COVID. I kept all these people on and we weren't getting any revenue out of them, but it wasn't– as a human being, it wasn't the right thing to do."

One major source of revenue for AEW is their TV rights fees, according to Khan. He recalled how the first meeting regarding AEW as a startup heavily involved the discussion of these valuable assets.

"I know, for me, [TV rights fees] was literally the conversation that started AEW. I went up to the president of TNT and TBS and talked to him about rights fees he was potentially looking to spend if he bid on a WWE TV package," Tony noted. "And he wouldn't have gotten it anyway because I think he was willing to spend over maybe $150,000,000. He wasn't prepared to spend the $205,000,000 it actually ended up being.

"And furthermore, it made more sense what I was saying to him, which was, 'If that's the case, if you're really prepared to spend that much kind of money, I think it would make more sense for us to talk.' And I had a conversation I never dreamed we were going to have, but I said, 'You know, we should sit down and talk about what if I started a wrestling company. We can build a startup and put a lot less money into it and get a lot more value. Which is true, and I've delivered that value."

Tony believes TNT/TBS remain satisfied working with AEW because of the numbers they have dished out, especially in recent months. He notes how all the shows involving AEW talent have seen success on their respective networks.

"I think if you look at the last two years of the shows TNT and TBS have launched, I believe you could argue the four most successful shows since they've launched have been Dynamite, Rampage, Rhodes to the Top, and Go Big Show, and all of those shows have AEW involvement, of course. AEW Dynamite and Rampage have both ranked #1 in their timeslot and both have consistently performed high for them. And not just been #1 in the timeslot, #1 for the entire day that they're on, both shows," Tony said.

"So I think those shows have been the most successful two shows they've launched, and as far as other shows that have finished in the top #15/top #20, consistently, Rhodes to the Top and Go Big Show are the other ones. I don't know if they've launched any other shows that have done that well, so I think [TNT keeps doing business with us] because of our really strong performance. I would argue that we've been their best performer, so, that's why they want more of us."

If you use any quotes from this article Monaco Streaming Film Festival, please credit with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.