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Tony Khan Reveals How Much TBS/TNT Was Willing To Bid For WWE SmackDown In 2018

Rick Moranis as Tony Khan Joke Article Pic WrestleFeed App

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was officially introduced to the world in early 2019 through a reveal on “Being The Elite.” The promotion quickly made waves with its inaugural event, AEW Double or Nothing, in May 2019, followed by the premiere of AEW Dynamite on TNT in October 2019.

During a recent appearance on the “Locked on NFL” podcast, AEW President Tony Khan recounted the genesis of AEW and dropped some intriguing details about Turner’s initial interest in wrestling TV rights.

The Birth of AEW

Khan revealed that the concept for AEW began taking shape in 2018. He identified a critical mass of talented wrestlers who would be available at the start of 2019, which he believed could launch a new wrestling league successfully. The turning point came in April 2018 at a party in Beverly Hills, where he had a fortuitous encounter with Kevin Reilly, then-President of TBS and TNT.

“I was at a party in Beverly Hills on a Friday night; I saw my friend, who at the time was the President of TBS and TNT, Kevin Reilly. I walked up to him, and I asked, ‘Kevin, are you looking at bidding on wrestling TV rights?’ He was, and he was looking to bid on SmackDown,” Khan recalled.

A Strategic Proposal

Reilly revealed his willingness to invest between $150 million and $175 million per year for the rights to WWE SmackDown. However, Khan, with his keen understanding of the wrestling industry, knew that the bid would likely exceed $200 million, which it eventually did.

“I pointed out, ‘I don’t know if that’s going to get it done. For a lot less than that, we could launch a new wrestling league on TNT and eventually TBS, too.’ That’s what happened,” Khan explained.

AEW’s Rapid Growth

Ultimately, WWE SmackDown secured a five-year deal with FOX worth $205 million per year, premiering just two days after AEW Dynamite’s debut. This strategic move by Khan not only filled the wrestling void on TNT but also allowed AEW to establish a strong foothold in the industry.

Since its launch, AEW has expanded its programming significantly. AEW Dynamite moved to TBS, while AEW Rampage and AEW Collision were added to TNT’s lineup, further solidifying AEW’s presence on the Turner Broadcasting network.

Khan’s strategic vision and business acumen have played a crucial role in AEW’s rapid rise, making it a formidable competitor in the professional wrestling landscape.

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