NEWS UPDATE: AEW Collision introduced; Nick Khan hints at Raw simulcast on NBC; AEW Dynamite TV rating

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AEW Collision is introduced amid more uncertainty around CM Punk

Warner Bros. Discovery at Wednesday’s upfront presentation officially confirmed the addition of AEW Collision as a new weekly two-hour show on Saturday night from 8 to 10 pm ET on TNT. CM Punk’s name was originally included in the title for yesterday’s press release from Warner Bros. Discovery introducing AEW Collision. His name was quickly removed from the title. Shortly after the upfront presentation, WBD gave the comment, “CM Punk is not affiliated with TNT’s AEW Collision.” Tony Khan announced on Wednesday’s Dynamite broadcast the first six dates for AEW Collision. Conspicuously, the location of the first taping on June 17, which is believed to be scheduled for the United Center in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, wasn’t confirmed, with Tony Khan saying the location will be announced next week. Other dates announced were June 24 in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena (the night before Forbidden Door); Hamilton’s June 28 Dynamite taping becomes a two-day event with Collision taped in advance on a Thursday on June 29; already schedule events in Regina, SK on July 8 and Calgary, AB on July 15 are now confirmed Collision tapings; and the new show will tape live on July 22 in Newark, NJ. Both PWInsider and Fightful reported Wednesday there are renewed disagreements between Punk and AEW over whether Ace Steel, who was involved with the post-All Out fight in September, would return to AEW as a producer. There’s been no report on whether the new program coincides with an actual renewed TV deal between AEW and WBD. Fightful has reported the additional weekly show comes with additional payment to AEW from WBD. For some idea of how much the incremental compensation could be, I estimate the added cost of adding a weekly taping to AEW’s schedule is around $500,000 per week, which comes out to around $26 million per year. So the added money would need to be around $26 million annualized to cover those costs. AEW’s current U.S. deal with WBD has an average annual value of $43.75 million. WWE’s stock on Wednesday fell 7%, to about $101 per share, despite a positive day for the major indexes. Endeavor’s stock was also down 3%,  correlating with the movement of WWE shares throughout the day — unsurprising given their upcoming merger transaction. Usually, I would say it’s attributing too much influence to AEW to suggest any news with AEW has an immediate effect on WWE’s share performance on a given day. It’s hard to overlook, though, that the decline of WWE’s share price accelerated close in time with when Collision was announced around 10:40 am ET, and the movement didn’t correlate with a decline in the major indexes. And WBD’s upfront presentation is among the most visibility any AEW news may have to WWE shareholders, given that community is likely paying careful attention to media companies’ upfronts this week. WWE shares today recovered some of yesterday’s losses, closing at $104, or up 3%.

Nick Khan at MoffettNathanson TMT conference

Nick Khan spoke with analyst Michael Nathanson at the SVB MoffettNathanson TMT conference (audio for subscribers here). He revealed that WWE will run a live event in India this coming September, which will be the first event in the country since 2017, not counting the “Superstar Spectacle” that was directed at the Indian market but was taped in the Thunderdome in the U.S. Nick Khan said when Vince McMahon returned to the company, McMahon reassured him that his desire to explore M&A was genuine. “[Vince] and I had a private conversation, which he’s certainly comfortable with me sharing today, where I said, ‘Hey, just tell me, is this real? Because there’s some scuttlebutt out there that maybe this is just your way to come back into your company.’ Which, again, he would have the right to do, also. And he said, ‘No, I’m committed to it. I give you my word.’” On U.S. media rights negotiations, Nick said, “The reality of it is that we’re going to get a really good increase for both of these properties [Raw and Smackdown]. It’s too early yet to say, ‘Is it 1.5x? Is it greater than 1.5x?’ But if you’re in the under-promise-and-over-deliver category, I’d rather go on the low end and, you know, we’ll see in six to twelve months exactly how it plays out.” I believe a minimum of 1.5x is currently baked into the stock price. The consensus is probably a little higher, with Morgan Stanley, for one, assuming a base case of 1.8x. Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand predicted 2.0x when Khan appeared on the Marchand and Ourand podcast just before Wrestlemania. Khan insisted again “it’s only a matter of time” before Netflix gets into live sports. He hinted that it would be valuable for Netflix to acquire WWE’s rights in India, noting WWE is the second-most popular sport in the country after cricket and that Netflix has had trouble getting subscribers in the region. He noted it’s WWE’s strategy to put PLEs on holiday weekends. He said he thinks it was a miscalculation to think that viewers won’t tune in because they’re traveling. Usually by Saturday, they’re at the destination they’re traveling to. Khan pointed to the success of Clash at the Castle during Labor Day weekend and the Saudi Arabia event coming up during Memorial Day weekend this month, and Money in the Bank the weekend before the Fourth of July. I’ll add, that sounds like there will be more WWE and AEW peak events on the same weekend then, since three of AEW’s five annual PPV events (Double or Nothing near Memorial Day, All Out near Labor Day and Full Gear near Veteran’s Day) traditionally take place during holiday weekends. On WWE’s current agreement for PLEs and library content on Peacock, Khan all but confirmed the Wall Street Journal’s 2021 report on the value of deal being $1 billion over five years, or $200 million in average annual value. He called it “the most under-market deal in the entire media business”. With Jeff Shell out as NBCU CEO, Khan said there was no change in interest from NBCU and that they’ve been in touch with Michael Cavanagh, who’s taken over Shell’s duties. He added Khan seemed to suggest that NBCU should, during certain weeks, possibly during the NFL season, put Raw on its NBC broadcast network to more strongly compete with Monday Night Football. “If you notice what Disney has done with Monday Night Football, which I think has been quite effective, you have a certain number of games simulcast on ABC, you have the ESPN feed, and then you have the ManningCast on ESPN2, which has good viewership and certainly really good relevancy,” Khan said. “So for us even if you look at NBC Monday nights, they haven’t programmed Monday nights. Our Raw program is obviously Monday Night Raw. That’s an interesting thought, you know, for us, but we’ll see.” After U.S. and U.K. media renewals are complete, Khan said he sees an opportunity to create a unique lucha libre style product (yes, he actually used the words, “lucha libre”) directed at Latin America and Spanish-speaking audiences. The TMT conference tour continues for Nick Khan next week Tuesday at JPMorgan’s event. Listen to the entire talk here.

Additional news & notes

  • Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch yesterday, also at the MoffettNathanson conference, said the TV network is “highly unlikely” to bid on the NBA. My read is that bodes well for the notion that Fox will end up retaining Smackdown. If Fox lets Smackdown go, the key question is what Fox replaces it with. Clearly, the NBA would be a suitable or superior replacement if not directly on Fridays then in enabling Fox to shuffle the lineup and replace Smackdown.
  • In its earnings release Wednesday, Take-Two Interactive (parent company of 2K Sports) noted WWE 2K23 was one of the largest contributors to its sales in the quarter ending March 31. Take-Two disclosed WWE 2K24 is slated for a release sometime in the company’s fiscal year 2024, which ends March 31, 2024. The game will be released on platforms to be announced.
  • The judge in the Luchasaurus mask lawsuit ruled to deny AEW and Austin Matelson’s (Luchasaurus) motion to dismiss the allegations against them of copyright violation and two other counts, from plaintiff Composite Effects (CFX). The ruling largely comes down to the judge’s opinion that the modified Luchasaurus mask that Matelson uses and that AEW merchandises, is not dissimilar enough from CFX’s copyrighted work, “Viper Silicone Mask”, to dismiss, and that such a decision should be made by the “factfinder”, which refers to the potential judge or jury who would decide the case, if this case gets to that point. CFX’s “Viper Silicone Mask” is the work that modifications to the mask, at least originally, were based on. In addition to allegedly infringing merchandise, CFX says the “Ojala mask” that Matelson had made by another mask maker infringes on CFX’s copyright. (See the mask images below.) Although a settlement could potentially happen at any time, it’s more possible now that the case will go to discovery where document exhibits and depositions may be introduced into the lawsuit. Matelson and AEW’s motions were denied by the judge to dismiss alleged copyright violation, as well as alleged violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act (LUPTA) (CFX is based in Louisiana), and alleged breach of contract.
  • WrestleTix updated on Tuesday their estimate for All In, to 61,585 estimated tickets sold and 64,154 tickets distributed.
Left: CFX’s copyrighted work, “Viper Silicone Mask”; Center: AEW T-shirt for Luchasaurus; Right: “Ojala mask” commissioned by Matelson

AEW Dynamite TV rating, May 17

AEW Dynamite last night on TBS, was watched by 814,000 viewers on average, including about 365,000 aged 18 to 49, for a 0.28 P18-49 rating. Dynamite ranked #7 in P18-49 among cable originals for the day, according to Showbuzz Daily. Including broadcast primetime, it ranked #18. NBA conference finals on TNT led the day in P18-49, followed by a huge 0.83 P18-49 rating for Vanderpump Rules on Bravo. Dynamite was also outranked by the Hulk Hogan-Gawker premiere of Rich & Shameless on TNT, which did a 0.30 rating and 854,000 viewers while benefiting from the lead-in from the NBA playoff game. Compared to last week, Dynamite was down 7% in total viewership. Among viewers 18 to 49, viewership was down 12% from last week’s 417,000. Viewer counts in thousands, calculated from national ratings, for this week’s episode with difference versus the median of the last 28 days in parentheses: P2+: 814 (-4%) P18-49: 365 (+0%) M18-49: 260 (-2%) F18-49: 111 (+0%) P18-34: 148 (+2%) P35-49: 218 (-3%) Non-P18-49: 449 (-3%) F12-34: 52 (+1%) M12-34: 110 (-6%) P25-54: 426 (-3%) P50+: 409 (-1%) Most-viewed YouTube videos from Dynamite, as of 3pm today: Jungle Boy, Darby Allin & Sammy Guevara show respect before Double or Nothing: 228,826 Wardlow calls out Christian Cage to a brutal outcome: 139,860 Darby Allin & the AEW International Champ Orange Cassidy picks up the victory: 116,302 Will Jeff Jarrett & Jay Lethal become your new AEW World tag team champions?!: 105,447 The Outcasts played the numbers game against Britt Baker & Hikaru Shida: 77,605 The Elite vs. Blackpool Combat Club in Anarchy in the Arena!: 16,228 This report was written with the assistance of automated programs created by me, then manually edited. Subscribers have exclusive access to the Wrestlenomics Viewership Spreadsheet. Brandon Thurston

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

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