Mass media and entertainment conglomerate WarnerMedia is reportedly planning to cut costs by 20% in a wholescale restructuring effort due to the impact of COVID, which is likely to see thousands of jobs lost.
Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted that Time Warner in particular has seen its movie business affected due to theatre closures, in addition to declining cable subscriptions and a significant drop in television advertising.
Where this could potentially impact AEW – which airs on Time Warner property TNT – is that the corporation’s major business overhaul will include TBS, TNT and HBO, with several thousand layoffs expected soon.
Meltzer notes that AEW is in a strong position at the moment due to how well its ratings have held up, particularly in the key demographics, but that it will never be a priority ahead of basketball and baseball, which will end up costing the stations more in the next round of rights fee negotiations and could impact secondary programming like Dynamite.
This comes on the heels of AEW’s chief supporter Kevin Reilly – who was the Content Chief at WarnerMedia and the President of TNT – departing the organisation in August after major restructuring from new CEO Jason Kilar.
That news was a blow for AEW, as Reilly was one of the key figures in greenlighting AEW in the first place, so this additional news of behind the scenes shake ups at Time Warner will undoubtedly be cause for concern.
There is, of course, a precedent here. In 2001, following Time Warner undergoing significant restructuring, new Head of Turner Broadcasting System Jamie Kellner made the decision to cancel WCW, paving the way for WWE to snap up the promotion at a bargain bin price.
Although the situation is very different – because Time Warner owned WCW and wanted to cut its losses as opposed to AEW, which is owned by Tony Khan and merely works in partnership with Time Warner/TNT – it could still potentially have a significant impact on the promotion’s future.