WWE's television rights picture continues to fall into place.
The Hollywood Reporter published another story on the rights agreements today, mostly focusing on how Fox's deal for SmackDown came together. The story also clarifies some details on NBC Universal keeping Raw on the USA Network, noting that sources say it's a five-year deal that's worth $265 million per year.
News broke on May 21st that WWE and Fox had agreed to a deal to bring SmackDown to Fox's main broadcast channel starting in the fall of 2019. That's worth $205 million annually and is also for five years. SmackDown will be moving back to Friday nights on Fox, and the Hollywood Reporter refers to it as a live show.
In total, the two agreements, which will both go into effect in October 2019, are worth $2.35 billion over five years. That far exceeds the $240-300 million per year that most analysts were expecting WWE to get for their combined TV package.
Here are other notes from the Hollywood Reporter article:
- The deal for SmackDown was agreed to with a handshake at a meeting at 21st Century Fox's headquarters in New York City on May 17th. Stephanie McMahon, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, and WWE co-presidents Michelle Wilson and George Barrios were at the meeting, along with agent Nick Khan of CAA and Alan Gold of Evolution Media (which is partially owned by CAA). CAA represented WWE in negotiations, with The Wrap reporting in April that WME had brought them in to secure a "checks and balances" system as WME was also negotiating the UFC's deal.
On the Fox side, Rupert Murdoch, Peter Rice (chairman and CEO of Fox Network Groups), and Fox Sports executives Eric Shanks and Larry Jones were present. Murdoch's son, Lachlan, attended via phone. Negotiations lasted for two and a half hours.
- An "enormous" TV screen in the conference room where the meeting was held showed an image of Ronda Rousey holding Levesque in a fireman's carry at WrestleMania 34. There were Fox and FS1 logos displayed on the picture.
- Rupert Murdoch claimed that NBC Universal was "embarrassed" by WWE's product and that Fox would promote SmackDown on their sports programming every night of the week. Murdoch also said that FS1 would broadcast a weekly WWE-focused studio show.
- Rice had asked Khan to meet with Fox immediately if NBC Universal didn't exercise an option to retain SmackDown, and the sides met the day after NBCU's exclusive negotiating window ended. NBCU had the right to match any bid up to $200 million per year for SmackDown but decided to focus on keeping Raw.
- NBC Universal was expecting to retain Raw and SmackDown with a 10-year agreement for $360 million annually at one point.
WWE stock crossed $60 per share for the first time today, though it's currently at $59.47. That's under a one percent increase on the day.