It’s a bit of a running joke around the Cageside “offices”. Whenever the line-ups for Dark: Elevation and Dark are rolled out in full each Monday and Tuesday, somebody will ask if we’ve checked on Manolo, our man on the AEW beat. It’s a lot of non-essential material to cover.
The two YouTube shows feature storylines (ones that feed into angles on Dynamite, and ones that exist only online), and a big star or two shows up for each episode. But the bulk of the wrestling audience isn’t watching two - four hours of squash matches and unsigned wrestlers every week. Throw in the fact AEW tapes the shows before and after Dynamite - currently as part of bi-weekly marathons were two episode of all three shows are produced at Jacksonville’s Daily’s Place - meaning some of these are taped at like 3 a.m. and probably not a lot of fun for the wrestlers, either. It’s no wonder lots of people have asked, “why?”
Dave Meltzer provides the answer in this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
Regarding doing so many hours of taping, besides it enabling them to look at more talent and it basically being their developmental system, the idea is to build up as much content as possible. The number of hours over the course of years will enable them to either set up their own streaming service, or better yet, be like WWE and get a major streaming company looking at spending heavy for content and them having enough hours, to lease it out for enough money that it will become a major stable revenue stream.
Tony Khan & company will never catch-up with Vince McMahon’s tape library. But this is a way to try and develop a comparable offering to partners like HBO Max (which is owned by TNT’s parent company WarnerMedia), or ESPN+ & Hulu, or any of the other players trying to keep up with Netflix in the modern media landscape.
Will it work? The Darks are far from must see TV, but they can improve on the execution. It’s not like 205 Live is must see TV, or there’s a huge audience for old WWF Wrestling Challenge episodes. If AEW can continue to establish and grow their overall audience with Dynamite, everything else is a value-add.
My hunch would be that Khan will need to acquire or partner with someone who has an established library to really have a streaming product that will command a decent price, and he has a couple relationships in place that could allow him to do that. A few years worth of strictly AEW content might not be that appealing, but packaged with rights to some or all of the Impact, New Japan, or NWA library?
That could be something.
In the meantime, keep a good thought for Manolo and AEW recappers everywhere as they sift through approximately 32 Dark matches every week.