AEW demographics shouldn’t be part of the on-camera storytelling of AEW: Dynamite.
For the past few weeks, Chris Jericho has crowed about how he’s the Demo-god. And MJF has patted himself on the back for his ratings as well. But this isn’t necessarily the stuff of storytelling, even for arrogant, obnoxious grappling bad guys.
It is, however, a story unto itself.
The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the entertainment industry. And there’s no going back. Movies, TV, music, sports, games. They’ll never be the same. There is no “going back to normal.”
And somehow, the story of AEW demographics is also the story of how All Elite Wrestling might just have made itself pandemic-proof.
When news hit about a shake-up at WarnerMedia last week, the knee-jerk reaction was to suggest it was bad news for AEW.
New WarnerMedia CEO removed Kevin Reilly from his job as Content Chief. That’s not big news, right? I mean, there’s a pandemic going on. Except that Reilly was AEW’s biggest cheerleader at Warner. He was crucial to All Elite Wrestling landing its $44 million per year deal at TNT.
To make matters more ominous, Reilly’s replacement is Casey Bloys. The driving force behind HBO dropping boxing content.
So to recap, AEW lots its biggest supporter at WarnerMedia, and his replacement seems to have it in for combat sports.
How are the AEW demographics supposed to save this situation?
Boom Goes The Dynamite
I’m sure you’ve noticed, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to make money during a pandemic. And it’s even harder to make money during a pandemic where the only cure (for now) is to stay the hell in your house. So how do demographics keep a wrestling company that can’t sell tickets in business?
By delivering a big win over WWE’s flagship shows. Raw and SmackDown. “Wait, you mean NXT, right?” Nope.
This is the first week in history where AEW has won a key (as in 18-49) demo overall, beating both Raw & SD in the same week in women 18-34, and that's a show with competition vs. two shows with long histories and no wrestling competition.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) July 23, 2020
The whole story is right there. AEW: Dynamite pulled in a higher percentage of 18-49 year-olds than both the July 20 Raw an the July 27 SmackDown. AEW demographics are the key here.
Step 1, put on awesome wrestling show. Followed by Step 2, beat your head-to-head competition. Then Step 3, outdraw shows from the same industry with 20+ years on the air.
And Step 4? Profit.
More Bang For Warners’ Buck
More Bang For Your Buck is one of the Young Bucks’ 437 finishers. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) But it’s also the key to how AEW demographics make the company almost pandemic proof.
As mentioned earlier, AEW’s deal with TNT is worth about $44 million per year. And AEW: Dynamite has been riding some wicked momentum. The August 5 episode brought AEW the closest to its one million-viewer peak as it’s been in months with 901,000 viewers (source: WrestlingNews.co).
By comparison, USA pays WWE around $256 million per year for Raw. And Fox pays them $205 million a year for SmackDown. Granted, we’re looking at this in the bubble of just one week. But in the current landscape of television, a single week can tell a pretty expansive story. That means AEW is helping TNT pull in more of the most crucial demographic in television for less than a quarter of what USA and Fox are paying WWE.
AEW demographics are more than just a buzzword for Jericho and MJF to draw cheap heel heat.
They’re basic polling numbers that spell profit. And not just for the traditionally-male audience. Meltzer’s tweet mentions that AEW: Dynamite scored well among women ages 18-34.
In an age where it’s a struggle for most networks just to keep any show on the air, AEW is scoring big with its target demographic and a demo they aren’t even necessarily pursuing.
The pandemic means tough times all across the entertainment industry. WarnerMedia is especially feeling the pinch. Despite the launch of HBO Max going relatively well, other areas of the business are hurting.
WarnerMedia recently laid off the entirety of its DC Universe staff, and DC Comics itself is down to just a relative handful of name-worthy freelancers. They’re relying on streaming services to debut big movies, and the upcoming fall season is probably going to be a bust.
But then there’s the AEW demographics telling a different story. A story of the one WarnerMedia asset whose ratings aren’t merely surviving the pandemic. The new guy in charge may not be a combat sports fan. But I have to figure he’s a fan of money.
And right now, AEW demographics are bringing in the money. It may not last. And it may only be for “right now.” But right now, right now’s all you can hope for.
All images provided by All Elite Wrestling.