ITV enters wrestling arena with AEW partnership

ITV has partnered with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) to air a major wrestling event on its pay-per-view Box Office channel as well as a pre-show special on ITV4. 

The broadcaster is to air Double Or Nothing from Las Vegas, which will include headline matches featuring Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho, among several others. The event, which is understood to be significant in the wrestling calendar, sold out in less than 30 minutes. It will air from 25-26 May.

Fledgling independent wrestling collective AEW is headlined by members of The Elite and Chris Jericho, and serves as an alternative to mainstream wrestling groups such as WWE, which has dominated the arena for several decades.

In the UK, wrestling events via WWE have traditionally aired on Sky Sports. The AEW partnership is seen as a major coup for ITV.

Ahead of the live pay-per-view event — which is to begin at 1am GMT on Sunday, 26 May — an hour-long, live pre-show special titled Buy-In is to air for free on ITV4 at midnight. The special will feature 21 competitors entering the ring.

Pre-event programme Before The Bell will air for free on both ITV4 and ITV Box Office in the lead-up to Double Or Nothing.

Niall Sloane, director of sport for ITV, said the partnership with AEW fits into the commercial broadcaster’s ‘More Than TV’ strategy — spearheaded by CEO Carolyn McCall — and its bid to “develop direct relationships with viewers through big events available on its platforms.”

“We’re delighted to announce this partnership with AEW, whose entry into professional wrestling is already making a massive impact on the industry and promises to deliver an electrifying event later this month, and a fantastic experience for our viewers and wrestling fans in the UK,” he said.

Tony Khan, president and CEO of AEW, added: “We’ve stated since our launch that we want to make this the greatest time ever to be a professional wrestling fan, and part of this plan is to make our product as accessible as possible to a global audience.

“Since our launch in January, we’ve signed the best talent, sold out our debut show in record time, and we’ve built relationships and formed bonds with the best media partners like ITV. This collaboration with ITV is so important to AEW — ITV is the best in the UK, they were always my first choice to be our international PPV partner for Double Or Nothing, and we’re looking forward to a great show.”