FOX is ready to get into business with WWE and they are definitely paying for it.
On Monday reports surfaced that FOX had agreed to a multi-year deal to bring WWE ‘Smackdown Live’ to their network starting in October 2019. The deal would reportedly put ‘Smackdown Live’ on Friday nights as part of FOX’s revamped broadcasting lineup after the company sold the majority of their assets to Disney.
Now details of that deal are beginning to emerge as the Hollywood Reporter has now added that FOX is paying WWE $1 billion over five years for the rights to ‘Smackdown Live’.
The deal averages out to around $205 million annually for the broadcast rights. NBCUniversal had reportedly paid around $30 million annually for ‘Smackdown’ rights back in 2010.
Additionally, WWE reportedly received an even higher offer from another suitor but the company ultimately settled on FOX with the network committed to promoting the ‘Smackdown Live’ brand with broadcast rights deals already in place with commodities such as the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Of course there’s been a lot of speculation about ‘Smackdown’ returning to a taped format on Friday night but that seems highly unlikely based on a number of factors.
First off, FOX paying more than $200 million per year wouldn’t make any sense for a taped broadcast. Second, FOX executives have stated that following the sale to Disney, the wanted the ‘New FOX’ to focus on about 80-percent live programming for the network.
That commitment was confirmed when FOX inked a massive five year deal to land the rights to NFL Thursday Night Football in a deal reportedly worth $3 billion.
Considering how much FOX would be paying to land ‘Smackdown’, there’s almost no chance they would allow that to return to a taped format.
FOX is also reportedly attempting to keep UFC programming on their network as well with the network willing to pay around $175 million annual to keep the mixed martial arts promotion. The UFC recently inked a deal for $150 million per year for 15 events to air on ESPN+ with the remainder of their broadcast deal still up for grabs.
The move will also be a game changer for WWE with ‘Smackdown’ expected to air on FOX rather than their offshoot sports network FS1. This will be the first time WWE will land on one of the four major broadcast networks with a weekly offering.
‘Smackdown Live’ is currently averaging 2.59 million viewers per week versus ‘RAW’, which averages around 3 million viewers. ‘Smackdown’ will now have the benefit of airing on network television versus cable where ‘RAW’ currently airs on USA Network.
‘RAW’ is expected to stay on USA Network as part of a new multi-year deal with NBCUniversal, with the Comcast owned company reportedly paying three times the current rights feel to keep WWE programming on their network.
What do you think about Smackdown moving to FOX on Friday nights? Sound off in the comments and let us know!