WWE's television contract with NBC Universal expires in September 2019, and there appears to be more and more signs that the company could be open to a change.
Though most in the television industry still expect WWE to re-sign with NBC Universal and remain broadcasting on the USA Network, FOX Sports is clearly showing some interest in the brand. So much so that, according to a report from Sports Illustrated, FOX executives were at SmackDown last night in Los Angeles.
The FOX Sports networks currently hold the contract to UFC programming, but that contract is coming to an end this fall. FOX made an offer of around $200 million per year to the UFC, which was promptly rejected, as the MMA company wants an offer more to the tune of $450 million per year. For reference, WWE's present contract with NBC Universal pays them around $180 million per year.
Should FOX go on to lose their UFC programming, they will be looking for a brand to fill the void. WWE would definitely fill that void left by UFC, which attracts strong numbers in the same 18-34 age group demographic. If FOX were to gain the WWE television contract, prior reports have indicated that they would likely air RAW on their broadcast FOX networks, moving the show back to two hours in length, while airing SmackDown on the Fox Sports 1 channel. One of the reasons for moving RAW back to two hours would be that the FOX broadcast networks run local news at 10:00 p.m. ET, so they would broadcast RAW from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. ET.
According to the report from SI, Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, Fox Sports producer Jacobs Ullman, and broadcaster Colin Cowherd were all in attendance at SmackDown. This can be confirmed by checking out Cowherd's Twitter page, where he posted a backstage photo with Natalya and Charlotte Flair.
While WWE continues to concentrate on their streaming platform, the WWE Network, it's not feasible for the company to stream all of their television shows on their own service given the kind of revenue they currently make from their television rights deal. USA Network is sure to make a strong play as WWE moves on to the re-signing phase, but it's evident FOX could be giving them a run for their money.