The WarnerMedia/Discovery merger has wrestling fans and industry observers paying close attention to the company’s every move for signs about the television & streaming future of AEW.
A report TBS & TNT’s pro wrestling shows would get “a big push” at this week’s upfronts — where networks pitch their upcoming slate of content to advertisers — bolstered hopes AEW would remain a key piece of the newly-rechristened Warner Bros. Discovery’s plans. But the upfronts were this week, and when Warners Discovery made their presentation on Wednesday, WWE legend John Cena had as much of a presence as Tony Khan’s company.
Cena was there to tout a new season of Wipeout on TBS. AEW was represented by... a picture of Red Velvet.
Here are the Premiere options that would be available to marketers this week across the portfolio pic.twitter.com/RaSrwOGOXW— Jason Lynch (@jasonlynch) May 18, 2022
It is good that Dynamite was represented as Wednesday’s premiere option. And it’s possible the presentation happening on the same day that show airs live created a scheduling conflict which prevented wrestlers from making an appearance. But it’s hard to believe TK would have turned down a chance to send someone (like Jade Cargill, a highly marketable star that didn’t do much in Houston this week) had Warners Discovery asked.
In this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer looked for positives, but overall thought the upfronts were “not a good sign” of what the new brass think of their wrestling partner:
“There was a banner of WarnerMedia properties basically listing a hit show from every night of the week that listed... AEW Dynamite on Wednesday (with a photo of Red Velvet for whatever reason although it was just a head shot, but still, for the NBA they put Steph Curry, and Red Velvet is hardly AEW’s Steph Curry)... In that sense, it was good positioning and it was noted that the NHL and Major League Baseball didn’t even get listings. But as far as any pushing of their ratings, demos or anything else, it wasn’t there, although they really didn’t do that for anyone. No AEW talent was there. There was a highlight of properties and there was a quick AEW clip but that was it.”
On Observer Radio, Meltzer summed up his read as:
“I don’t take it as a kiss of death or anything like that [but] the planning went from huge to not much at all, to kind of big, to not much at all. Those decisions were made by the people in charge, and they did go from kind of big to not much at all in the last week, so there’s no way to take that as a good sign.”
AEW’s deal with Warners goes through next year, so there will be more twists & turns to this story. Stay tuned.