On the surface, All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) first full-year as a company has been successful with  their US TV deal with TNT being extended through to 2023. While the onscreen product hasn’t always been satisfactory, it’s clear Tony Khan, Cody, the Young Bucks and company are willing to listen, and react, to feedback from fans. However, it has to be said that there has been one issue that has left a selection of AEW fans frustrated – its UK TV deal with ITV.

The partnership seemingly started off well with the broadcaster pushing Double or Nothing, and later on All Out, heavily. The potential of a major UK network highlighting a weekly wrestling show looked strong. Add to that the fact that Cody was touting AEW’s ITV deal as much better than WWE’s UK deal. Nevertheless, just months into Dynamite‘s existence, it’s clear the potential AEW has in the UK is quickly fading.

For starters, there was the poorly received news of how Dynamite was to be initially shown in the UK; dumped in an early Sunday morning slot on ITV4 with a condensed hour-long showing to following night on ITV. This was, to an extent, quickly rectified by Khan by stating UK fans could watch Dynamite live and on-demand via Fite TV’s ‘AEW Plus’ package at a cost of $5 a month. Whereas ITV amended their plans by moving it’s ITV4 broadcast to a late Friday night slot with the promise of Dynamite being available through it’s ITV Hub on-demand service from 7pm on Thursday nights. 


For UK fans, especially those unwilling to join another subscription service, these changes weren’t ideal but fair. Unfortunately, in the weeks that have followed Dynamite‘s early October launch, ITV have repeatedly let down AEW’s fans. From it’s premier episode being heavily edited (MJF’s squash match against Brandon Cutler and various promo videos were cut out) to consistently failing to fulfil the promise of delivering its on-demand option in time. It has left fans frustrated with the potential for AEW to dent WWE’s footprint in the UK quickly fading. 

Now with ITV immediately closing their Box Office operation, you have to wonder if the broadcaster has any need for AEW? The signs of them not treating the promotion with respect is there. An inconsistent ITV4 and ITV time slot has been followed by a severe lack of communication from the @ITVWrestling Twitter account, a source that aligned with the potential the AEW-ITV partnership had early on. At the time of writing, there has been no activity since December 5th, 2019 with the account’s bio still advertising the ‘Full Gear’ pay-per-view from this past November. It seems ITV only wanted to push AEW went it was financially beneficial for them, but with no more box office revenue coming in, they’re left with a promotion that, on the face of it, clearly don’t want.

The news of ITV Box Office’s demise is a second blow for AEW this month. WWE’s presence in the UK has started off 2020 strongly with the launch of a brand new TV deal with BT Sport being pushed heavily; they even held a “moving day” event in London with a double-decker bus and the Undertaker’s hearse travelling around the city promoting the news. This was preceded with the news that NXT would be aired live for the first time in the UK as part of the deal, while NXT UK would also be shown on BT Sport. 

While BT Sport’s reach isn’t perhaps on par of ITV 4, WWE have clearly shown their intent with a second UK TV deal set to start in early February. Their deal with Viacom/CBS’s Channel 5 will see WWE being broadcast on free-to-air TV in the UK since 2001. Sure, the deal consists of Saturday and Sunday morning highlights of RAW and Smackdown yet the potential reach is far more than AEW’s late Friday night slot tucked away on ITV 4. After all, didn’t most of us discover WWE on  Saturday mornings?

As ITV Box Office seizes to exist and WWE’s stronghold on UK TV increases, the future of AEW within the UK looks uncertain. As I write this on Friday, January 24th 2020, a quick look at the ITV Hub site shows me the January 22nd episode of Dynamite has yet to be added to the service. Again, it highlights the carelessness AEW’s UK broadcast partner has for the upstart promotion. In an age where avoiding spoilers is increasingly difficult along with instant viewing is more or less essential, ITV’s treatment of AEW is damaging the longterm potential the company has within the UK. 

For fans of AEW, some clear clarification of why ITV has continuously mistreated the product is needed now more so than ever. Otherwise, AEW’s potential to become an alternative option for mainstream wrestling fans on these shores will sink down a black hole, leaving it to sit firmly in second place far behind the juggernaut of WWE.

By Sêan Reid

Based in Nottinghamshire, Sêan is a freelance music and pro wrestling writer. Away from music, his interests include watching sporting events (football, ice hockey), maintaining his mental and physical well-being, and consuming books, films, TV shows and video games.

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