Ari Emanuel comments on WWE SmackDown moving back to USA Network, says there's plenty of interest in Raw, talks Saudi Arabia

Originally published at Ari Emanuel comments on WWE SmackDown moving back to USA Network, says there's plenty of interest in Raw, talks Saudi Arabia

Endeavor and TKO’s CEO chats WWE and UFC. 

On September 12th, Endeavor formally announced that the merger of UFC and WWE to create a new sports and entertainment company, TKO Group Holdings, was complete. TKO began trading on the New York Stock Exchange immediately. 

The week after the transaction, TKO pushed out the news that Friday Night SmackDown is returning to USA Network in October 2024 as part of a five-year agreement between WWE and NBCUniversal. SmackDown has been airing on FOX since the fall of 2019. 

Endeavor and TKO CEO Ari Emanuel was present at Bloomberg’s Screentime conference and commented on SmackDown moving back to USA Network. USA is currently home to WWE’s Monday Night Raw and NXT programs. Emanuel added that the rights for WWE Network on Peacock are up in 2026. 

We got a 40 percent increase for SmackDown. We have Raw which is the number one package available. There’s three rights coming available to market. Three big rights: WWE Raw, UFC, NBA. We are involved in two of them. There’s six buyers, plus I would say WWE Network which is up in ‘26. I think I’m saying that — maybe ‘25, ‘26. So, you cannot undervalue the WWE and UFC for the following reasons: One, we do not have a season. One of the biggest issues that will happen with s-mods and networks is churn. We’re 52 weeks a year, right? And we’re flexible. You want us Thursday night? You want us Tuesday night? I don’t have any of those scheduling issues and that churn issue because we’re the full year. It’s so much different than any other sport because then people churn out. That’s one of the issues with sports. Not in a bad way… and then the package is over and then you leave. We do not have that. Our fans are loyal, they stick around and they move.

WWE Raw and NXT will continue to air on USA Network through September 2024. The rights for Raw are up in 2024 and Emanuel stated that there’s a lot of interest. 

I would say to you there’s plenty of interest in Raw, right now. I know people are like, ‘NBC is out of the mix’ and that’s why it went down. I think there’s three things that happened. One, the reason the stock is down is they thought Raw was the best package. I saw 40 percent increase which was in line with expectations… Two, the P.F.L. situation and three, probably Vince (McMahon) in our deal, wanted to be able to put, at any point in time, his stock. He’s 78 years old. He’s been working at this for decades and decades so, I think those three back-to-back issues…

It was brought up by the panel host that in 2018, Ari Emanuel gave money back to Saudi Arabia after journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi was going to invest that money in Endeavor.

The conversation transitioned over to Emanuel now being in business with Saudi Arabia via WWE and now UFC, who are scheduled to present a fight card in Saudi in 2024. Emanuel stated that he never said Endeavor would not do business with Saudi, but he just didn’t want them in the financial stack of their investors. 

I would say, I didn’t want them (Saudi Arabia) — at the time, we weren’t public in our investors stack, okay? I said it on many podcasts about my feelings about the situation. I didn’t say we would never be doing business in Saudi. I just didn’t want them in the financial stack of our investors. We distribute their now-soccer league through IMG. Because of WWE, we’re in business with them for at least five years. Two events a year, great. They just bought an event from us for the UFC. Great price, we’re doing the event. It will be an unbelievable card. So, I just, at the time, didn’t feel comfortable for many reasons which has been stated. But we’re in business with them now. So, that simple.

Coming up on November 7th, TKO is going to host their third quarter 2023 earnings call. WWE Crown Jewel is Saudi Arabia is taking place on 11/4 and UFC 295 is scheduled for November 11th. 

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit the original source with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.