Executives speak out.
Last week was a historic week in the world of pro wrestling as All Elite Wrestling premiered on TNT, NXT moved to two hours on the USA Network, and SmackDown moved to Fox. The schedule change shook up the wrestling landscape with a new competitor on the scene and WWE being in front of more potential viewers than ever.
“We’ve cracked the code on how to successfully cross-promote to drive audiences from show to show, whether it’s to a specific network or platform,” WWE Co-President Michelle Wilson told Multichannel. “We love the fact that being on Monday nights on USA we can drive the audience to Wednesdays on USA and now to Fridays on Fox. We have the opportunity on broadcast television to reach 110 million households where we can promote NXT Wednesday nights and back to Raw on Monday nights. For us, we love that across all three shows — and then reinforced with our 1 billion social media followers around the world — we can promote all three brands.”
While Raw and SmackDown have the night to themselves, NXT goes head-to-head with AEW every Wednesday. And both shows are going after the same target audience.
“From an advertiser/ratings perspective, we know that its reaching a younger, more male audience, so that is unique positioning The brand is a little grittier and edgier to appeal to that audience specifically," said Wilson.
AEW won week one of the Wednesday Night Wars, not only drawing nearly 500,000 more viewers than NXT (1.409 million viewers for AEW, 891,000 viewers for NXT). In the 18 to 49 demographic, AEW drew 878,000 viewers compared to NXT's 414,000 viewers.
TNT senior vice president of original programming Sam Linsky commented on AEW, saying, “Wrestling has been a monopoly for 20 years … fans are actually craving some different styles and different ways of presenting wrestling. We have such a great history here, it felt like a natural match on network that has a lot of sports and high-octane movies, and is really known historically for being part of the wrestling [genre].”
As far as the competition goes and how viewers may be conflicted, Wilson stated, "We view competition as an opportunity to make ourselves better. The Monday-night [wrestling] wars years ago actually increased viewership because of the back and forth between the two brands at the time. We view competition as a good thing.”
Linsky added, “[AEW] is a challenger brand and fits right into the narrative of the franchise. If we can deliver something special and a great product to fans, there’s room for everybody.”
Ahead of the viewership numbers being posted, WWE put out a statement congratulating AEW on its success. You can view the statement by clicking here. Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho weren't too impressed with the statement. You can view Moxley's reaction by clicking here.