WWE has reportedly had several high-level meetings with FOX officials as of late, with new details of the two companies’ relationship being made available. According to a report from Fightful, Vince McMahon and Nick Khan met with FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks and FS Head of Production Brad Zager on the night before SummerSlam.
According to the report, while a source at FOX has acknowledged that WWE’s viewership for SmackDown have been disappointing compared to their expectations, that’s been difficult to gauge for sure due to the pandemic being in effect for much of that relationship. Sources from both sides pointed out that SmackDown is still the most watched wrestling TV show in the world. With that being said, the average of around two million viewers per week is falling well short of what the network was originally expecting when they made the deal, especially since SmackDown doesn’t air on cable TV.
While one FOX source said that the network has not been incredibly pleased with WWE constantly promoting Peacock, several sources said that it hasn’t been a serious issue. Sources on both sides noted that WWE talent have been heavily featured on FOX, FOX Sports and the like to promote SummerSlam, which is prime programming for FOX. It was also noted by a WWE source that if FOX wanted the pay-per-view content, they could have easily paid the price that Peacock ultimately did.
It was also that the ratings numbers and the news that Rupert Murdoch is behind them will likely be portrayed in a negative way in the upcoming scripted series about Vince McMahon. The source called it a “childish move” that won’t help the WWE/FOX relationship. Murdoch had met with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and others in May 2018 to lure WWE’s programming from USA.
However, it was also said that Vince McMahon has had a conversation with Murdoch in recent months and the topic wasn’t broached, with the relationship between the two families being “one of great respect.”
FOX has felt that WWE bringing back John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch has shown an effort to go above and beyond in stacking up the roster since fans returned to live events.
Regarding the WWE/FOX meetings, the two sides reportedly met during SummerSlam for about four hours and it was said from WWE’s side to have been productive. McMahon and Khan have decided to nix a discussed RAW at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA in order to appease FOX so that the first show in the city for WWE can be the December 10th episode of SmackDown, which is expected to be announced shortly.