Instead of an in-ring war, WWE (WWE) could be about to get involved in a bidding war. The company’s “Smackdown” program is about to hit the open market as it current TV deal with NBC Universal’s USA Network is set to expire.
However NBCU is not getting out of the wrestling game completely. The network also airs WWE’s flagship program “Raw” and is actively working on a deal to continue airing the Monday night program. The said deal is reported to be worth around $240 million annually.
“Smackdown” has aired on USA Network since 2010 and is currently the second-longest weekly episodic program in the U.S., and the show it continues to bring significant rating numbers, with the sixth-largest cable audience. The 2017 weekly viewership average for the program was 2.546 million. WWE’s current TV agreement with NBCU nets the company $180 million a year.
WWE will undoubtedly have some lucrative offers, but rumors are swirling that the most enticing offer could come from Fox (FOX), which has been aggressively adding to its sports brands. Fox has reached a 5-year deal with the NFL for the rights to broadcast “Thursday Night Football,” for which Fox will pay a reported $550 million a year. Adding sports entertainment programming such as WWE’s “Smackdown” could be exactly what the company is looking for.
News of a possible TV deal for “Smackdown” made waves through the financial world. Shares of the company shot up and closed about 15% on Thursday.
It remains to be seen where “Smackdown” will end up — but as Matthew Belloni of The Hollywood Reporter and many others note, all signs indicate that the weekly wrestling program will be a hot ticket.
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