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COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT: AEW PRESIDENT TONY KHAN DISCUSSES FIGHT FOR THE FALLEN, RAISING MONEY FOR COVID-19 ASSISTANCE IN FLORIDA, PIVOTING THE COMPANY IN THE WAKE OF THE PANDEMIC, REVIVING THE FTW TITLE, SONNY KISS VS. CODY, AUDIENCE NUMBERS VS. DEMOS AND WHAT TNT IS LOOKING FOR, PUSHING ON WITH AEW IN THE WAKE OF ADVERSITY, TESTING TALENTS AND MUCH MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2020-07-13 20:55:00

Mike Johnson: All right. I know we're running out of our time here, and you've got to run and do some other things. But before we go, you had an interesting interaction on Twitter the last couple of days over the weekend breaking down the demos numbers for Dynamite versus the overall audience. For fans who are preconditioned to the old way of looking at things, Raw versus Nitro, and who had the bigger audience. Explain why it was important to you to go on Twitter and breakdown why the demo numbers in today's society, in terms of from a television programming perspective is far more important than the overall audience. I got to ask you, why even wade into those waters to being with? Because nobody ever wins on Twitter. No one's ever said, "On Twitter, that person changed my mind." Why even expend the energy there to begin with?

Tony Khan: I disagree with that, that nobody ever changes anybody's minds on Twitter. I think it's difficult to open people's eyes to things on Twitter, but I think there's probably a lot of people that I educate. Now, there's people who won't like AEW or are preconditioned not to like AEW that are not going to agree with anything I say on Twitter. But I think you know the TV industry pretty well, Mike, and you know that what I was saying was true. That the number that we value is the demo. And it's not a choice I made. It's when I got this contract that this is what they told me we need to do. I compare it to a football game, where the fans, in this case, are talking about the stats the players are putting up, and how many yards they're throwing, and it sounds really good. But at the end of the day, it's about winning the game.  And, for me, I've been told by the network, and I think all the networks are probably saying the same thing, that my core focus should be the demo. When they tell me the numbers at the end of the week, the first thing they say is the number in the 18 to 49 demo. That's the number we look at. That's the scoreboard. FyterFest was a hugely successful show in the demographic the last couple weeks. We were in the top seven on cable both nights, and we put up an audience and a number in the demo that's very much in our target of what we'd be really happy with. The last two weeks, Fighter Fest was like that. Then the show a couple weeks before also where you had Jericho and Sammy versus Best Friends, and you had Kenny and Hangman versus Dustin and QT, Cody versus Ricky Starks, MJF versus Billy of the Gunn Club, and the Young Bucks versus Sabian and Havoc. That show did really well. And then we went into the FyterFest and these shows have done really well, both in the top seven.   When you have numbers like that, I'm very happy with them. And I saw people saying we didn't win the week, or we wouldn't be happy with this. And it's like, "I think I should explain to people who might not know, how the industry works." I get that there's people that anytime I open my mouth they're like, "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about," but AEW's been working with Warner Media for over a year now, and there are a lot of people that probably had more experience in terms of dealing with the relationship between a wrestling company and a media partner than I have at this point. As far as their level of happiness with the show, I've gotten ecstatic phone calls from the top executives at TNT the last couple weeks about the numbers we're doing, because their core focus is 18 to 49 demographic. It doesn't mean that you don't care about people outside of that, especially this young audience.   As we start developing action figures, and doing more merchandising, focused on a young audience, I absolutely want to grow our young audience and build fans for the future. That's really important. For older fans, that's really important too, and families, but the way they tell us we win or lose every week is doing a good number in the demo. When I say it online, I just am surprised people don't know that, at this point, because in the TV industry that's how we've been conditioned. But I know people are used to talking about overall viewers, like you said, because it goes back many years to the Monday night wars. Now, it's funny because the metrics have changed that much more, because we didn't really used to talk about overall viewers as much as we did ratings. They would give you just a ratings number and a share, but the overall viewership was another number we talked about.   Certainly, the number in the demo now is the standard, and I think it's probably because the wrestling industry on TV was not really competitive head-to-head for a long time is the only thing I can gather. But all I know is that I've been dealing with TNT executives for two years now, and talking about this, and pushing this idea. And we've been talking for over a year about Dynamite, and the entire time the one thing they've told me that I need to consistently do is put up audiences in the 18 to 49 demographic. I just thought it was important for people to realize what we're judged on, because if people want to say this was successful, or this wasn't successful, it's in the eye of the beholder. We're very fortunate TNT gave us this chance to come on their network and then we're also fortunate that because of the great fans we were very successful with the debut. And then that's how we got this extension, and they gave us another four years on the network.  The timing of that was great, because they get that rights feed before the pandemic. It gave us this great revenue stream, where even with less than zero dollars of ticket revenue, because not only are we not selling any tickets, but we're doing shows at our cost, and obviously not charging anybody to get in, and the costs have increased with doing all the testing and things we do on top of that to get all the wrestlers and all the staff and everybody in safely. We're very, very fortunate that our big revenue stream got locked in when it did. But to talk about it, like why you talk about it, I just guess I want people to understand what a successful week is. And for us to do a .28 and a .29 over the two weeks, those are great numbers, and we finished top seven on cable in the 18 to 49, hugely successful for us, and that's why I just want people to know Fighter Fest was a huge success. It was a huge success for us. We thought it was a great show. The fans thought it was a great show. The response I got was great.   Then you wait, not quite 24 hours, but about 20 hours, I guess, to get the overnight numbers in, and you hope they're going to be good. For us, these are great. And then I saw people saying that it was not a success because of what happened in terms of the overall audience, and that wasn't what we were told we were out to be trying to get. I mean, we were really trying to pull the biggest number we could in the 18 to 49 and that's what I was explaining to people. Because I think it's good for people to understand how the industry works, and peel it back, and whether... It's funny that you say it's hard to change people's minds, because I think whether or not people agreed with it, it certainly started a lot of conversation. And I saw people talking about it through the weekend, and now today, and I think it certainly opened a lot of people's eyes. So that's why I wanted to bring it up.

Mike Johnson: Well, one thing that there will be a lot of eyes on will be Fight for the Fallen this Wednesday. I want to thank you for sitting down and talking with us. I know you stayed a little bit longer than we were scheduled, so I appreciate that.   The Khan family, themselves, have actually already donated a million dollars to different organizations in Florida, as well, and fans, this week, can donate through the Fight for the Fallen website or through ShopAEW.com, you can buy Fight for the Fallen branded face masks and T-shirts.  All of this allows wrestling fans can stand up and help the greater good, which is always a wonderful thing when wrestling gets to give back.  So, Tony, I want to thank you for sitting down and talking to us. You obviously have an open invitation to come back any time you want to talk AEW and beyond. We wish you and your family and AEW nothing but the best going forward.

Tony Khan: Thank you for giving me a chance to come on and plug Fight for the Fallen, and plug the charity, and the charitable T-shirt. It means a lot. I really appreciate it, Mike. Thank you.

Mike Johnson: Until next time, I'm Mike Johnson. Tony, thank you again so much for sitting down with us.

Tony Khan: Thanks again, Mike. I appreciate it, man.

To donate to COVID-19 relief, visit www.AEWFightForTheFallen.com or order FFTF merchandise at www.ShopAEW.com!


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