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WWE’s Broadcast Future Hangs in the Balance

WWE Star (Via WWE/Twitter)

WWE is in the midst of television rights talks, and a new contender has emerged in the race for SmackDown’s television rights. Comcast currently pays $265 million per year to broadcast WWE Raw on USA Network, while Fox pays $205 million per year for WWE SmackDown. Both contracts are set to expire in October 2024, and negotiations for new contracts are well underway.

It is not surprising that the exclusive negotiating window has closed without a new deal, as most major deals often go to the open market, even if the incumbents are still favored. Fox and USA Network are likely to retain their positions as broadcasters of WWE programming. However, Disney has expressed interest in acquiring WWE, and sources have suggested that FX could be a potential home for the company’s programming.

The rationale behind this is that ESPN, a Disney-owned network, cannot guarantee a specific night of the week for WWE due to its extensive sports content. Additionally, ESPN is primarily a sports network, and while wrestling is considered athletic entertainment, it may not fully align with ESPN’s linear programming. Regarding streaming rights, ESPN+ could emerge as a contender, as it was in the previous round of streaming rights negotiations.

Cody Rhodes (Via WWE/Twitter)

As for FX, the report highlighted that WWE’s audience would be a significant advantage, particularly with scripted content transitioning to streaming platforms and commercial-free channels. The network has a history of successfully airing edgy and mature content, which could be a good fit for WWE’s product.

Amazon Prime Video is also expected to engage in discussions with WWE. The report cited the example of Amazon’s significant investment in securing the rights to Thursday Night Football for billions of dollars per year as a testament to their financial capabilities. However, WWE may be hesitant to fully transition its broadcast distribution to a streaming service, as it has a dedicated and engaged fanbase that follows their programming across various platforms.

WWE fans were noted as a “sticky audience” that is likely to seek out the content wherever it is available. This could influence the company’s decision-making regarding broadcast partnerships. The outcome of WWE’s television rights talks remains unclear, but one thing is certain – WWE RAW and SmackDown will find a broadcast home, no matter what.

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