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Tony Khan: AEW Dynamite is the number 1 wrestling show on TV, how AEW is attacting a young audience, why he won't appear on TV

Tony Khan appeared on the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast to talk about AEW. Here are transcribed highlights:

Tony Khan talking about how he started AEW:

“The last 3 weeks, we’ve been the number 1 show on all of cable on Wednesday nights and I’m hoping to continue that trend. We’ve got a great fan base, and that’s really the star of the show. The wrestling fans make this all possible. We really brought the most exciting fans into AEW, and we’ve also built some of the most exciting, young stars in wrestling. Really, when our show began, we introduced a lot of new stars, and then I tried to go out and sign top names and bring together the best possible roster. It’s really a diverse roster, diverse life experiences, diverse backgrounds, and really people of all different ages and experience levels. The star power of the AEW roster is now unparalleled. We have the most star power of any wrestling roster which is not how it started. Really, this was a lot of elbow grease. We had some very, very big name stars and some really young wrestlers, but the depth of the roster, and the amount of huge, Hall of Fame stars that we have. I bootstrapped this company. I started it in 2019, and really began working on it in 2018. The growth has been incredible in just a couple of years.”

Tony Khan was asked if owning a wrestling show is something he always dreamed of:

“It has always been a dream of mine. I’ve always been a huge wrestling fan, and I’ve always wanted to write a wrestling show. A lot of the business aspect of it has come to me. I’ve had a lot of experience in sports business working in English football and working in the NFL, but wrestling has always been a first love of mine. I realized in 2018, there were so many young stars out there that were becoming big names and some of the big free agents were available. I realized at the beginning of 2019 would be a very unique opportunity in terms of a lot of contracts being up at the same time, and a lot of exciting, young wrestlers being available that I can go out and start a wrestling company. I realized I could go out and recruit a media partner, and if we could get a TV partner to back us, believe in us, and give us a platform, we can go out and compete. That’s what TNT and Warner Media have done for us. In 2018, I reached out to my good friend, Kevin Reilly, who was the president at the time of TNT and TBS, and suggested that it would make a lot of sense for TNT and TBS to get into the wrestling business. The people there, and the people still in charge have really been so supportive. We have a great GM at TNT and TBS by the name of Brett Weitz, and a great executive vice president by the name of Sam Lynch. They are very supportive of the show. I talk to Sam every Wednesday, and he’s really a fan of wrestling which helps. The growth the show has experienced, especially in 2021, is unlike anything they had expected.”

How do you compete with WWE because they are the market leader, and now matter what you do or what you put on the table, it’s always going to be compared, your product vs yours?”

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“The number one show in wrestling on TV last week was Dynamite. In some aspects, they’re the market leader, but in other aspects, we’re now the market leader. At the beginning, that may have been the case, but there were a lot of reasons why I felt I could come in and compete. There were a lot of wrestlers who were not being featured on television, and there were a lot of wrestling fans out there who were looking for an alternative product that weren’t satisfied with what they were getting on those shows. I do think there was definitely a great opportunity to come in and compete. I saw some vulnerability, frankly, in the market leader at the time, and it’s opened up a lot of market share for us, and for me to bootstrap a new business, build it up, and gain a lot of that market share where we are now in a lot of significant business metrics, we are now the world wide leader.”

Tony Khan was asked what kind of audience he has attracted: 

“It’s the youngest skewing audience of all sports programming on all of television. There have been more weeks than not in the past several months where we’ve beaten every major sporting event in terms of having the youngest skewing audience. Our Wednesday night show and our Friday night show have both finished as the number 1 show on cable in the 18-49 demographic. We have a more affluent fan base than other wrestling organizations, but really, people from all kinds of backgrounds. They are more likely to be a college educated audience. They’re a very attractive audience to an advertising base, particularly with the age demographic that they add. Having such a young, engaged, audience is really important for us, and it’s also a very consistent audience. This year, so many times, we’ve been the number 1 show on cable, and you can really count on our fans to come and watch the show every Wednesday night.”

Tony was asked if he would ever write himself into any of the storylines or script:

“No, I don’t write myself as a TV character, but if this makes sense, I am a plot device in the show. So, you’ll hear my name a few times because I am the matchmaker. I make the matches, so you’ll have somebody appeal to me. I don’t need to act or be on television or take up the TV time, but you do have to have a commissioner and a person who lays the law down and makes the rules.”

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast with a h/t to for the transcription