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More Details on WWE’s New TV Contracts with Fox Getting Smackdown (Live on Fridays) and Raw on USA Network

There were some interesting news items in some stories on Wednesday about WWE’s new TV deals. As we have reported previously, Raw is staying on USA Network on Mondays for three hours while Smackdown is moving to Fox on Fridays. In an update to those stories, The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap provided new info on both of the deals. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

– Starting in October 2019, according to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC Universal (owners of USA Network) will pay WWE $265 million per year over five years for a total of about $1.325 billion. Meanwhile, Fox will pay WWE $205 million per year for five years, which works out to be $1.025 billion.

It means WWE will be paid about $2.3 billion (numbers are not official, but that’s what it is expected to be) over the course of the five year deal with NBCU and Fox. The previous deal saw NBCU pay WWE about $135 million per year for Raw and Smackdown combined. They are going from $135 million to $470 million, which means WWE’s new TV deals will pay them more than three times as much money as what they were making previously. All of that comes from this Hollywood Reporter article.

– Smackdown will be live on Fridays from 8pm-10pmET every week. There were some questions about if it’s going to be live, but The Wrap reports exclusively that it will remain a live show even on a new night while retaining the “Smackdown Live” name that WWE has used since July 2016. By making Smackdown live on Fridays and having Raw live on Mondays, it’s going to lead to some changes for WWE logistically because they’ll have their TV trucks on the road on a Friday, then have them sit there until Monday and that’s going to cost a lot of money. Of course, the deal from Fox is a significant raise for WWE, so they can afford it.

– The Fox deal was pitched to WWE’s Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Paul Levesque (Triple H) along with others in Manhattan, New York at Fox’s headquarters in NYC. The meeting took place on the morning of Thursday, May 17. The May 17 date was one day after NBCU’s exclusive negotiating window expired, so Fox knew NBCU was passing on Smackdown and Fox was ready to pounce.

Fox’s top executives were at the meeting including Rupert Murdoch, who is the 87-year-old billionaire that launched Fox in the 1980s. Murdoch reportedly told WWE’s executive group that NBC Universal was “embarrassed by your product.” I don’t think that’s true considering how much NBC Universal has paid WWE for over two decades, but he was trying to be nice to WWE, so he’s going to say what they wanted to hear.

– The Hollywood Reporter noted that Fox plans to embrace WWE by airing Smackdown promos all over Fox programming every night of the ring and they even mentioned that there will be a weekly studio show on Fox’s cable sports channel, Fox Sports 1. That studio show is an interesting idea and we should learn more about that when more details of the deal are revealed.

There have been no comments from WWE on the subject of new television deals. That doesn’t mean they are false. They are likely very true and the stock price of WWE has reflected that because it went over $60 for the first time ever on Wednesday and closed at $58.96, which puts WWE value at $4.5 billion according to the Wrestling Observer. WWE is choosing to wait before they comment on this, which is their right.

Analysis: It’s crazy that WWE is getting over three times as much money as they used to get when ratings for the television product in the US are lower than what they were six years ago when WWE first agreed to go to three hours with Raw. It just shows how valuable live programming is to television networks.

What will be interesting to see is if Smackdown will become more of the “A” show in terms of having more star power. Since more people get Fox as a major network channel and USA is just a cable channel, it should mean that Smackdown will be WWE’s most important show.