Report: NBC Universal expected to retain "Raw", "SmackDown Live" being shopped to other networks

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The WWE’s domestic television rights package could be in line for a massive increase, following a report from The Hollywood Reporter.

THR is reporting that NBC Universal is expected to retain the domestic rights for “Raw”, a program that launched in January 1993 and has aired uninterrupted on the USA Network since October 2005. THR adds that with the retention of Raw expected, NBC Universal is putting “SmackDown Live” on the open market for a new home, with speculation that Fox could land the WWE’s Tuesday night program.

The major fact revealed by THR is that Raw could be renewed at close to three times its current value by the USA Network, which would lead to an enormous boost in the WWE’s television rights fees, without factoring in whatever SmackDown Live can garner from another network.

The WWE’s deal with NBC expires in the fall of 2019, with WWE stating that they plan to have an announcement of a new deal in place before September 2018. The pending television rights deal has led the WWE’s stock to hit record highs, closing at $43.59 on Wednesday.

It was estimated by John Ourand at Sports Business Journal that NBC Universal paid WWE approximately $180 million in 2017 for their entire U.S. rights package.

SmackDown Live is the WWE’s second biggest television franchise and launched on the UPN network in August 1999 on Thursday nights. The show aired on My Network TV for two-years from 2008 – 2010 before it was brought into the NBC Universal network airing on SyFy Friday nights with the network paying a reported $30 million per year for the show.

SmackDown was later moved to the USA Network in January 2016 and switched nights that summer to air live on Tuesdays beginning in July 2016, which coincided with the WWE’s second attempt at a brand split between Raw and SmackDown.

I’m getting Deja Vu. In 2014 there was tons of speculation about WWE moving and a big projected increase in the TV rights deal. Here is one example of such an article:

And now after months of speculation WWE could end up staying exactly where it is. The idea that it could be renewed for even twice the price seems far fetched based on recent history. So a big stock crash could also be on the horizon if they can’t meet the lofty goals they’ve set.

But worst of all it means Raw will probably stay a bloated three hour show with the production and writing teams still scrambling to do two shows a week.

I wonder what networks are most likely to get Smackdown? ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and FX seem like good potential landing spots.

Maybe somebody smarter than me can shed some light, but I assume if Raw and Smackdown end up on two different networks, it would create a “brand split” with more legitimacy than we’ve seen in the past. How will NBC feel about John Cena appearing on Smackdown instead of Raw (or vice versa)? Or what happens when NBC has something big to promote for Tuesday night, but Raw is promoting Smackdown instead? Is it even legal/ethical for writing teams and production crews to be working for two different networks? There’s a reason why Saturday Night Live writers have exclusive deals… it’s so they can’t be accused of “withholding” good ideas while under contract and using them for a different project.

(Or maybe I’m completely backward and this is the beginning of the end of the brand split like last time)

I think you are wayyyyyyy over thinking it. WWE maintained a brand split from 2002 - 2011. During that time Smackdown bounced around on other networks. Wrestlers made appearances on special episodes of Raw or SD as needed to promote whatever was coming up (Wrestlemania, cross branded PPV’s, DVD releases, etc). It was never a big problem.

E Network for example has never had a problem with WWE advertising their PPV’s on Sunday nights instead of Total Divas.

You have to remember a lot of those articles talking about WWE getting a big rights fee increase back in 2014 were generated from Vince saying on a conference call they were going to get 2x or 3x their cable deal. This time those stories are actually coming from sources in the tv industry, and not the guy in charge of the company.

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They were coming from both. Just like they are today. Vince & Co create expectations for growth in their earning calls which then get reported on by entertainment journalists, providing something for WWE to comment on in their next call. It’s a circle of hype. Which comes crashing down when the new deal is announced and even if it’s a good increase it doesn’t meet the high expectations thats been set.

Sell your stocks the day before their announced TV deal…make out like a bandit.


I got some buddies who know next to nothing about wrestling Too Sweeting on the movement of the stock :money_mouth_face: