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In a major development regarding WWE’s TV rights, NBCUUniversal is aiming to retain Monday Night Raw, but not WWE Smackdown. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Smackdown is up for grabs to move to another network, in part because of the much higher rights fees NBCU is paying to retain Raw on USA Network. Excerpt: “That deal is expected to close at as much as three times its current value. NBCU and WWE declined to comment on the still-ongoing negotiation.”
Smackdown could end up on a Fox network (broadcast or cable, such as FS1). Smackdown draws about 500,000 fewer viewers than Raw (3.0 million for Raw, 2.5 million for Smackdown on average this year), but is the sixth highest rated show among cable originals, including news shows. The Hollywood Reporter says WWE programming is “fetching a premium given the live tune-in that comes with it).
Today, WWE stock is up nearly 15 percent on this news of what could be a massive increase in TV rights fees when this currently negotiated TV rights deals kicks in come September 2019. Raw and Smackdown will remain on USA Network for another 16 months until the current deal expires.