Tony Khan appeared on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast to talk about AEW business, Double Or Nothing and a little bit about the Jacksonville Jaguars, among other topics.
Khan was asked about a debate on AdFreeShows.com between Conrad Thompson and Eric Bischoff. Thompson puts more value on hardcore fans and Bischoff puts more value on the importance of having a broader mainstream fanbase.
Khan said, “They’ve had 40 years to build and grow and develop their business and their philosophies and build up their assets. So it’s totally different than being a startup company. I think they’re, it’s different, saying, you know, this is what I would do with a company that’s been around for really longer than 40 years, but under this current management for 40 years. And under that management for 40 years, they’ve had 40 years to implement their own change and their philosophies and do their work and build up their assets. So being a company three years in, it’s a different experience. And Eric is one of the most knowledgeable wrestling executives and certainly one of the most experienced wrestling executives, but I think it’s an apples to oranges comparison. So that’s probably not necessarily fair, but I get that doing podcasts like you have to produce content that’s fun and entertaining, just like I hope we’re giving some insightful entertaining stuff on your podcast, but I think Conrad’s point is valid. I think Eric’s point that you want to have a lot of fans is also valid. But my thoughts on it are – and you know this, some of this might relate to Eric’s experiences. But certainly, there were a lot of things that happened with the history of WCW, and the rise of WCW and then what became of it, that I think it’s really important to remember the hardcore fan. And it’s something I always keep in mind, and I’m mindful of even when they don’t think I am listening I am. And you can’t always take action on the things that they’re talking about in a day, but you can take action on a lot of stuff as I plan to. And so I think it’s, it’s really a cool thing that you can hopefully get all the fans but always try to be loyal to your hardcore base.”
Khan continued, “I think another great thing about the hardcore fan is the word of mouth. From when I started in high school, wrestling was not cool when I first got into high school as a function of what was happening with the world of wrestling. And before it had a chance to get really hot as a business, I made a few fans right off the bat as a virus spreading fan, just by being a hardcore, that would rope other people into watching wrestling with me. And if you get some social people, what you can get is really good word of mouth, just like in the film industry and with TV shows, in which we are a TV show. So I think you can grow your TV show by having a big hardcore base that you service and support, but also by trying to spread the word and trying to not only spread the word of yourself and get out and engage with fans, but hopefully have the fans engaging with other fans. And if the hardcore fans engaged with other fans all of a sudden, that’s how you make what you might call a casual fan, because you can’t have somebody be a hardcore fan, right, overnight. We all started watching wrestling at some point, we all had to learn what was going on. We had to learn what why they rope break. We had to learn the count outs and we all saw our first disqualification and scratched our heads about what was that. We all have moments that we’ve all shared watching wrestling and learning about the things that happen in a in a wrestling company. And I think the experience of watching wrestling has changed over the years. But a lot of the philosophies are very similar. And hopefully we can go back to a lot of the things have been successful, while keeping a lot of the things that the fans love about today’s wrestling. And I think in general, all the fans are important, but you have to remember, again, you know, everybody has a beginning. So you want to make fans from the beginning and then hopefully try to make them into hardcore fans. I mean, the more hardcore fan somebody is, that’s good, right?”
Khan talked about Double Or Nothing and CM Punk’s impact on AEW business:
“We’re starting (Double Or Nothing) very early on West Coast time, because it’s a West Coast pay per view. So the pre-show last year, we did Revolution, which was one of my favorite shows we’ve ever done. We were in Orlando at the UCF campus. And we had a great pre-show. And then the pay-per-view itself was tremendous. There was a lot of action for free, you got three great matches, and it was like a really good one-hour wrestling show for the fans. And then we did our second-biggest buyrate we’ve ever done. All of our pay-per-view shows for those in sports media who don’t know, have gone up year over year. I mentioned the Grand Slam earlier. We’ve got four big events, all of them year over year have done a better number than they did the year before…So this Revolution of our dozen events, this is the second biggest event we’ve ever had, it was by far the biggest Revolution we’ve ever had. And since CM Punk came in, we’ve seen a big jump in our pay-per-view business. CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and some others. And it’s helped a lot the agency like you mentioned, and then having them mixed with the great stars of AEW.”
Khan doubled down on praise for Punk while hyping the main event for Double Or Nothing:
“We’re back in Las Vegas this week for the first time since we launched. And it is awesome to be back. And I think it’s going to be a really special night on TBS, and leading into our biggest event ever this weekend. We’ve got Hangman Page, the World Champion who’s been on such a great run, he won the championship at our big pay-per-view at the end of last year, beating Kenny Omega and he’s been on this insane run….From when he won the title from Kenny Omega and what I think is the greatest long-term story in terms of over the course of many years and, and even tag team partners who won the championship and then had the split. They’ve had many matches. I think there’s a lot of great stories in the company including MJF and CM Punk, and Hangman and Kenny Omega, I think those would probably be our top two or near the top. Hangman winning the title from Kenny Omega was certainly a big deal. And since then, he’s had some of the best matches in the history of the company, wrestling on TBS, and our debut show debuting with him wrestling Bryan Danielson. They’ve had a 60-minute draw and Hangman came back to beat him. He’s won a pair of matches with Adam Cole. He’s face to the company. And now he’s taken on a wrestler who really added new life to AEW, both backstage and certainly on TV. And as a business (Punk) created just so many new business opportunities and taking us to new heights in terms of our live events and our pay-per-view revenues and just as a business on TV, CM Punk. CM Punk versus Hangman Page, I just think it’s a great match. And with Hangman being a great champion, and CM Punk being a great number one contender, I think it’s gonna make for a great pay per view.”