Update On WWE’s TV Rights Fees Negotiations, SmackDown Going Live On A New Night?

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Variety.com has published an exclusive story looking at WWE’s upcoming TV rights fees negotiations which have the potential to bring in significant new revenue for the company. Here are some highlights from the article:

– For the first time ever, WWE will be negotiating all of its programming (RAW, SmackDown, Main Event, Total Divas, Saturday Morning Slam) in a package deal. WWE Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson says that by packaging all of their content together,

“We’re letting the marketplace determine if it’s interested in all or piece … We’ve had to evolve our thinking. We are clearly entertainment-based, but if you think about the characteristics of our brand, it’s live action, and that’s sports. We want to be compensated for a live audience, since live content is getting a very significant premium in the marketplace.”

 – WWE currently brings in $139.5 million per year in TV licensing fees. The company sees their programming as heavily undervalued, especially when you compare it to the blockbuster deal that NASCAR landed over the summer. NASCAR signed a 10-year deal with NBC and FOX worth a staggering $820 million per year.

NASCAR airs 154 races per year and averages a 1.38 household rating per show, with 92% of their viewers being white people over the age of 50. By comparison, WWE airs 156 episodes per year with a 2.2 household rating – and 44% their audience is under 34, a coveted demographic for advertisers.

–  WWE is considering airing SmackDown live every week. Due to scheduling, the show would likely need to move to a new night. Even though a live edition of SmackDown would result in higher costs for WWE, the company is willing to air SmackDown live every week in exchange for better TV rights fees. WWE Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios said:

“The value of live content has gone from becoming important to essential. As a network, if you don’t have live must-see content your existence comes into question.”

– 90% of “Raw’s” and “SmackDown’s” viewers watch the shows live or within the next day – making the shows “DVR proof.”

– Other TV entities that have shown interest in WWE programming include A&E, Disney, Viacom, 21st Century Fox, and Discovery.

– Official negotiations with other networks can’t take place until February 15th, when NBCU accepts or rejects WWE’s final offer.  Other bids are due by February 28th – with WWE set to have a deal in place by March 4. If WWE does leave NBC Universal and take its programming to another network, the move would not take place until October.

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