Big news hit the entertainment world yesterday when Variety reported on a shake-up in WarnerMedia’s leadership.
Among the men leaving the management team was Kevin Reilly, the former head of TNT and TBS who’d been promoted to being in charge of content at all WarnerMedia brands. He’s out even though he just signed a new four year contract last May. Reilly exits along with Bob Greenblatt, who joined from NBC last year to launch the HBO Max streaming service, and Keith Cocozza, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications.
Reilly’s name is the one that should be most familiar to wrestling fans. He’s close with AEW President Tony Khan, and was integral in getting the new wrestling promotion on TNT and signing their multi-year extension earlier this year. During press for the latter, Reilly even revealed a role in the creation of AEW.
“When Tony Khan first shared with me his idea of starting a new wrestling league, I was impressed by his audacity to go up against a contender that has been the only game in town for twenty years, and ultimately believed that together we could bring his vision for a new, authentic, gritty product to bear.”
In Reilly’s place will be Casey Bloys, who was running HBO Programming, but will now oversee content for HBO Max, TNT, TBS, and Tru TV. He’s extremely unlikely to be a cheerleader for wrestling the way Reilly was, and there’s speculation (because HBO stopped regular coverage of boxing under Bloys in 2018) he may not be a fan of combat sports in general.
AEW’s contract extension, and Dynamite’s performance on Wednesday nights in comparison to what TNT was running in that timeslot in the past, are powerful incentives to leave the show in place. Questions about when or even if the second show that was announced in January will happen under the new regime seem more valid.
Overall, it’s another sign of how fortuitous it was for AEW to extend their deal with TNT through 2023 when they did. The pandemic has hurt Dynamite’s TV numbers just as it has WWE’s and many others, and their negotiating position would have been a lot worse if they were trying to land a new deal now as opposed to in January. And if those negotiations were happening now, they’d be with someone who didn’t feel like AEW was partially “his baby.”
We’ll see what the future holds now that Khan is dealing with Bloys rather than Reilly.