WWE Hopes To Gain Significant Exposure From New Fox Deal
The WWE’s profile is expected to "soar to new heights this fall" as "SmackDown Live" premieres on Fox, giving the company the "potential to become a profit-minting machine in the coming years," according to a cover story by Otterson & Littleton of VARIETY. The WWE’s new rights deals with Fox and NBCUniversal ("Monday Night Raw" airs on USA Network) are valued at an average of $465M a year over the five-year term, which "amounts to 3.6 times the value of the WWE’s previous licensing deal with NBCUniversal," pegged at about $130M a year. The WWE has a "bumper crop of what investors want most from media companies: guaranteed revenue streams, little exposure to the cyclical nature of advertising and unique IP that cannot be easily replicated by competitors." "SmackDown" was "clearly a perfect fit with Fox’s new focus" of news and sports. WWE co-President George Barrios said, "Fox was super aggressive, and we came to a deal pretty quickly." Otterson & Littleton note the net has "committed to promoting WWE and its personalities across its Fox Sports broadcast and cable programs." Plugs for WWE during NFL games "can only help bring new viewers to wrestling." WWE CEO Vince McMahon said, "It’s going to be a totally integrated approach. We’ve never had a platform like this in terms of promotion. Fox is going to go all-in, and they’re great promoters. ... NBCU is going to step up as well to the equivalent of what Fox is going to do" (VARIETY, 5/15 issue).
NOT A GOOD FIT: ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said that the net "took a 'hard look'" at acquiring "Smackdown" rights, but realized that it "ultimately couldn’t make a live, 52-week show fit" its schedule. Magnus said, "We did talk to WWE during their process some months ago. ... But we couldn’t find a fit for it, primarily based on schedule." He said, "Those properties are 52 weeks a year live. And I’m proud to say we have a pretty good problem, which is that we can’t clear anything 52 weeks a year live. We have a pretty full portfolio of content as it is." Magnus added that “Smackdown” talks were "independent" of the UFC deal ESPN ended up signing (THEWRAP.com, 5/14).
FROM THE TOP ROPE: In N.Y., Joseph Staszewski reports TNT will air live All Elite Wrestling matches weekly in primetime "starting later this year," as well as streaming them on B/R Live and on PPV. AEW will be "presented to advertisers" today during the WarnerMedia upfront. The deal "marks the first time wrestling will appear on TNT" since '01 and "officially puts AEW in competition with WWE for prime-time television ratings." WWE is "moving its Tuesday 'SmackDown Live' show to Fridays on Fox starting Oct. 4." Sources said that AEW’s show may "air on Tuesdays" (NYPOST.com, 5/15).