Fox closes billion dollar deal to air SmackDown Live

Over the years, WWE has become a money printing factory. Last year alone they made over $800 million dollars, making it the highest grossing year in the company’s history.

While negotiating new TV contracts, USA network picked up Monday Night RAW for a new deal starting next year. From October 2019 forward, an episode of RAW will be raking in more money than a pay per view (other than Wrestlemania or Summer Slam, presumably). Although USA picked up RAW, they decided they weren’t going to do the same for the WWE’s other prime-time show: SmackDown Live. This left everyone curious as to what the supposed “B-show” would be picked up for, and what they needed to stay afloat.

Dave Meltzer of Wrestler Observer said:

“If [SD Live] gets anywhere from $80-$160 million, they’re on easy street. They don’t need to sell house show tickets, merchandise, PPVs & network subscriptions anymore, because the TV money is going to carry them to extreme profitability.”

So safe to say they wouldn’t need much to keep on as they are. Hell, they rarely even break 3 million in TV ratings and plenty of the hosted arenas appear half-empty. If they went to someone like Facebook or Amazon, however, they’d only really rake in the core audience, and that may be a problem.

A few days ago, the news broke that Fox had closed a deal with WWE to air the blue brand – a five-year deal that’s worth $205 million a year, adding up to roughly $1.25 billion in total. This is MUCH higher in value than what SmackDown Live was expected to be picked up for. Fox even walked away from their UFC partnership, one they’ve had for roughly 7 years, leaving that to be picked up entirely by ESPN.

Fox values the hybrid of live sports and entertainment television very highly. They’re expected to cross-promote SmackDown Live through other sports on the network, such as NFL and MLB.

Since their negotiations began last week, WWE’s stock has risen from 43.59 to an all-time high of 59.31. This puts the show in an interesting position now: because it’s going to be on a new network, it needs to impress investors and even more higher-ups.

Meltzer’s input on this:

“SmackDown has to be the A show, their ratings will be the most important number for WWE’s finances long-term so therefore they’re gonna have to move top stars to SmackDown…”

In my opinion, SmackDown has the best roster of superstars right now, but if this is WWE’s plan, it looks like we can expect Brock Lesnar to make appearances there. Maybe even Monday Night Rollins will finally make his long-awaited debut on the blue brand.

SmackDown Live is expected to move to Friday nights starting October 2019.

Braden Jackson – @Dembrae

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