A new report from The Hollywood Reporter has shed some light on the $1 billion deal WWE and the FOX network reached last week for the rights to air SmackDown! Live.
According to the report, NBC Universal was expected to sign a new 10-year deal with WWE. The deal reportedly would have been for $360 million per year to retain the rights to all WWE programming (both RAW & SmackDown! Live). WWE then opted to allow SmackDown! Live to “go to the open market” and FOX made an offer WWE couldn’t refuse. This is where WWE scored their billion dollar deal. The Hollywood Reporter says FOX patriarch Rupert Murdoch was intricate to the deal being made.
During the TV contract negotiations, CAA’s Nick Khan represented WWE. He was contacted by FOX Chairman Peter Rice, who told him that WWE should hold off on making a deal with NBC Universal as FOX wanted to meet with the company immediately. WWE SmackDown! Live hit the open market on May 16th. The following day (May 17th), Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Michelle Wilson and George Barrios visited with FOX network officials to hear their sales pitch. Vince McMahon was not present at the meeting.
Rupert Murdoch reportedly told WWE executives that he had heard from numerous people that said NBC Universal was “embarrassed” by WWE’s product. He said FOX would be “all in”, integrating and promoting WWE SmackDown! Live on many of their sports broadcasts, including Major League Baseball and NFL broadcasts. FOX officials also pushed for a weekly WWE “studio show” on FS1. During the meeting between FOX and WWE officials, there were large TV screens in the room that featured WWE photos, including Ronda Rousey shots, with the FOX and FS1 logos superimposed, pushing the marriage of the two brands.
FOX officials really wanted to meet with WWE officials. It was said to have been a major goal for them. The network is planning to reboot their company once they have finalized the sale of their movie studio and other assets to The Walt Disney Company. The new FOX Network will reportedly be built around live shows and sporting events. The reason FOX let the UFC go is because they felt they couldn’t sell it to advertisers. With WWE being a family-friendly product, FOX believes that sales pitches to advertisers will become much easier.
For what it’s worth, NBC Universal had the right to match any offer that was $200 million per year, but FOX offered $205 million per year to avoid that. The FOX/WWE SmackDown! Live deal is for five years and begins in October 2019. The five-year deal will put WWE SmackDown! Live on FOX through 2024.
The NBC Universal deal for RAW to remain on the USA Network is expected to be for $265 million per year and is for 10 years. That is a total of $2.65 billion over the 10 years. Under their previous deal, WWE was making $130 million a year for both RAW & SmackDown! Live so they made out big time with this deal. To say WWE officials are extremely happy would be an understatement.