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WWE’s current lucrative TV deal with NBC Universal expires in September 2019, and WWE is currently shaping their programming to another suitor – Fox Broadcasting. In their latest investor conference call, WWE executives said they plan to announce a new TV deal between May and September of this year.
Fox executives, reports Sports Illustrated, attended Smackdown on Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Fox Sports President Eric Shanks and Fox Sports talent Producer Jacob Ullman were at the event.
Fox Sports personality Colin Cowherd also attended and talked about it on his latest “Speak for Yourself” podcast. He said it was “like a rock concert.” He noted that there was a lot of interaction with the crowd and “it was fun” and he ” had a blast” and laughed for two hours.
The presence of Fox executives doesn’t mean a deal is in place to move WWE programming to Fox, but it certainly indicated Fox is at the very least still in talks with WWE. Fox is still the broadcast partner of UFC and it’s unlikely they’d pay for rights to both UFC and WWE. UFC is currently negotiating for a new deal, but Fox and UFC are reportedly far apart on rights fees. WWE’s current TV deal with NBCUniversal pays WWE around $180 million per year.
If WWE moves to Fox next year, one scenario has Monday Night Raw landing on Fox broadcasting network as a two hour live show, with Smackdown reverting to being a full-fledged B-show airing on FS1 cable (although the gap between broadcast network and cable network viewing doesn’t necessarily have as large of a gap in viewership as it once did 10-20 years ago).
Listen to Cowherd’s comments on attending Smackdown below.