By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
The WWE television rights deals with Fox and NBCU are chronicled in a Hollywood Reporter story, which features a breakdown of a May 17 meeting with WWE and Fox officials. Fox patriarch Rupert Murdoch was involved in the meeting along with other Fox executives, while WWE was represented by Stephanie McMahon, Paul Levesque, George Barrios, Michelle Wilson, and Creative Artists Agency’s Nick Khan and Alan Gold.
The story notes that while neither deal is finalized, the NBCU deal to keep Raw will be for $265 million per year for five years, while Fox will pay the previously reported $205 million per year for Smackdown. It also adds that Murdoch told the WWE team that NBCU is “embarrassed by your product” whereas his network would fully embrace WWE by advertising it across sports programming on a nightly basis and on a new weekly studio show on the FS1 cable network. Read more at HollywoodReporter.com.
Powell’s POV: A must read story for insight into why live sports programming is so attractive to networks. It’s also noted in the story that NBCU expected to keep both shows for ten years at just $360 million, while the final package will actually pay WWE a total roughly $2.35 billion over five years.
I have a hard time believing everything magically came together in a single meeting as the story suggests. Fox officials clearly showed interest in the past when executives attended a Smackdown event in Los Angeles back in February, which led to Fox personality Colin Cowherd stating a day later that WWE would be “coming to a network near you.” WWE was still within NBCU’s exclusive negotiating window at the time so both sides need to tell the story that this all came together after that window closed. Even so, it’s an interesting piece and it shows just how serious Fox is about doing business with WWE.
Was it fair for Murdoch to say that NBCU is embarrassed by WWE programming? NBCU hasn’t done much to promote WWE on the actual NBC network in recent years, but it’s not like they give much advertising love to any USA Network shows on NBC. Either way, WWE is going to gain a ton of exposure via Fox once the deal is finalized and goes into effect in October 2019.