WWE is reportedly set for an incredible £1bn windfall thanks to FOX securing the broadcast rights for SmackDown LIVE.
ESPN broke the news that the world’s biggest wrestling promotion is closing in on a massive five-year contract with the U.S. television network.
The partnership is said to be worth a staggering $205m (£152m) per year and will commence in October 2019 – a key date for the company.
Most significantly, SmackDown will move back to an 8pm Friday timeslot but on the FOX Network, one of the five national broadcast networks in the America, which are the equivalent of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in the UK).
This will be the first time WWE has ever had its weekly programming air on US network television (the company did broadcast occasional specials called Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC between 1985-1992 and 2006-2008).
Smackdown will be available in 114.8m homes across the US – an increase of more than 20% compared to the number of households it is currently available on the USA Network.
The news comes less than a week after The Hollywood Reporter revealed that NBCUniversal – the parent company of the USA Network – is looking to secure the WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw when its current deal also ends in October 2019.
Subsequent reports have suggested that deal could be worth around $240m (£179m) per year, making the combined domestic broadcast rights fees for Raw and SmackDown a remarkable $445m (£331m) per annum.
That would close to TREBLE the revenue earned from the existing deal for the two shows, which currently rakes in $160m (£119m) per year for the sports entertainment giant.
WWE achieved record revenues of $801m (£596m) in 2017 and once the new deals kick in, the company should break through the $1bn mark for turnover in 2020.
It’s no wonder then, that WWE shares rose to $58 per share on Monday – a whopping 90% up on what they were worth at the start of the year.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is the largest individual shareholder and his net worth has swelled to $2.5bn, according to Forbes.
His bank balance and shareholders aside, this should be great news for fans too.
Now that Raw and Smackdown will be featured on different networks – and the latter will be available to a larger potential viewing audience – competition between both brands should increase.
However, WWE may wish to give all of its talent the opportunity to appear on SmackDown, which could lead to a softening if not an outright end to the brand extension.
This news is also very exciting for current and future WWE superstars.
Such a sizeable increase in company revenues should lead to the organisation employing even more talent and superstars will have the ability to earn more than ever before.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Carmella in action versus Charlotte Flair
Interestingly, WWE’s current deal with Sky also ends in 2019 and an announcement on the next UK broadcasting agreement is expected later this year.
Company officials have been in discussions with Sky and other outlets about the rights for Raw, Smackdown and other programming, but it’s unclear whether Sky will retain the rights it has held for 30 years.
One thing is certain – WWE’s financial position has never been stronger, and its on-screen product should become even more exciting when SmackDown’s American TV home changes next year.