Much has been made about the future of WWE's television rights in recent months. But things just took an interesting turn.
Mattew Belloni from the Hollywood Reporter writes that NBC will let WWE shop SmackDown around for a new home—meaning the Blue Brand's days on USA Network are officially numbered. However, per Belloni, NBC is concocting a massive offer to keep RAW from moving.
Interesting tidbit among all the TV news today: NBCU is letting WWE SMACKDOWN go to open bidding. They're keeping RAW but the deal is so big (3x current value, I'm told) that they're not re-signing both. Big sports opportunity for another network.— Matthew Belloni (@THRMattBelloni) May 16, 2018
WWE's current deal with NBC Universal expires in September 2019. Despite it still being a ways away, there has been plenty of commotion regarding what might happen. FOX has been perpetually rumored as WWE's most committed suiter, but at this point, it's hard to forecast much.
However, WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios appeared at the 46th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology and may have actually predicted Belloni's report.
"From our end, [we don't think] it's an issue to split it. We have done it before. We think we're pretty good at promoting and moving our viewers from one platform to another. Seven or eight years ago, it was only from one network to another network, which changed dramatically. We can't over-emphasize it, is the nature of social and digital and helping do that.
So, we've been able to do it before, we would feel even more comfortable doing it today just because we have a direct connection with all our fans which we did not have seven or eight years ago. So, our ability to do that, if it made sense economically, there were partners interested, if we felt comfortable with the partners in question, operationally we would not see an issue with doing that."
The Wrestling Observer reported earlier this year that Triple H met with Fox Sports in the fall of 2017 where the parties discussed a new TV deal. When WWE and NBC originally struck their agreement was, at the time, for an underwhelming $200 million. This number was low enough to spook shareholders and sent WWE's stock plummeting. WWE has since rebounded and FOX would likely need upwards of $400 million to secure the rights. Even more, given FOX's recent $52.4 billion deal with Disney, they have enough cash to buy WWE entirely, but The Observer believes that Vince McMahon is not interested in selling his company.
This is a situation destined to be fluid. We'll keep you posted as things develop.
[H/T Wrestling Inc.]