WWE currently airs SmackDown on FOX and Monday Night Raw on USA Network, but the expiration of those deals in 2024 could result in both shows ending up on new networks.
According to a report from The New York Post (h/t SEScoops), FX—owned by Disney—is among the frontrunners to land WWE programming as part of a new TV rights deal: “It is still early in the process, but one party that does have interest in adding the WWE is Disney…The potential cable placement would not be ESPN, but rather FX.”
WWE’s exclusive negotiation windows with both FOX and Comcast have already expired, giving WWE the flexibility to pursue non-FOX options for SmackDown and non-USA Network options for Raw. Whil both shows could still stay put, The New York Post notes that Amazon Prime, Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery—the current home of AEW programming—are also contenders to strike a new TV deal with WWE.
WWE’s current deals expire in October 2024, and CEO Nick Khan has already said that he expects a 150% bump for WWE’s new TV deals, which currently earn WWE more than $450 million per year in total. It’s possible that WWE could strike a deal to air both Raw and SmackDown on networks owned by the same company, just as AEW does with TBS and TNT. It’s also possible that Raw and SmackDown end up on the same network.
FX would make an interesting landing spot for WWE programming, in particular for Raw. Khan has also said that WWE has discussed making Raw’s third hour a more “adult” show. That would presumably make FX an ideal network for Raw since FX typically airs edgier and more adult-oriented shows.
WWE has had a successful working relationship with NBCUniversal, the parent company of USA Network, but the way people are consuming TV programming is rapidly changing. That’s why, in addition to Disney, Amazon Prime or even Apple could be real players in the WWE TV rights sweepstakes, with WWE potentially moving to a streaming service.
Regardless of where WWE lands, however, the company is going to cash in with what will assuredly be its biggest TV rights deal ever.
With buzz that AEW’s next TV rights deal could skyrocket, WWE—which has a much broader reach in pop culture and a longer track record of sustained success—could benefit from having another suitor in the marketplace. WWE’s pending sale to Endeavor could also make a network under the Disney umbrella an attractive landing spot for WWE, considering that Endeavor’s UFC brand airs its programming on the Disney-owned ESPN.
Netflix is also a potential landing spot, according to Khan himself, so WWE is clearly considering putting Raw and SmackDown on a streaming service if the offer is right and it will allow WWE to grow its fan base.
In 2022, WWE achieved record revenue of $1.3 billion largely due to its current TV rights deal, which nets the company $200 million per year for SmackDown alone. Based upon Khan’s expectations, WWE expects TV rights fees for SmackDown—led by Roman Reigns and The Bloodline—to top $300 million annually. That’s a huge number that seems almost unfathomable given how lackluster WWE’s TV product has been at times, but WWE is a borderline sport. And media rights fees for even “lower rated” sports have been skyrocketing for years.
As WWE continues to have a star-studded roster with stars like Reigns, Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, there’s little doubt that it will remain a huge target of potential suitors until the company inks a new deal.
While WWE still has well over a year until its current deals officially expire, fans should expect big changes—like SmackDown moving off Fridays—whenever a new deal is reached, likely later in 2023. Forbes