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Rupert Murdoch himself, the patriarch of Fox, reportedly said NBCU is embarrassed by the WWE product, but Fox won’t be. That’s one detail reported today by the Hollywood Reporter in a story about how negotiations led to the Smackdown-Fox deal worth more than $1 billion.
“[They’re] embarrassed by your product,” Murdoch reportedly said via telephone during a May 17 meeting that also included Stephanie McMahon, Paul Levseque (Triple H), Michelle Wilson, and George Barrios from WWE, CAA’s Nick Khan and EMC’s Alan Gold. Fox was represented by executives Peter Rice, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, and Fox Sports executives Eric Shanks and Larry Jones.
Murdoch pitched, according to this article, that Fox would embrace WWE in a way that NBCU hasn’t, including unflinching cross-promotion on Fox’s other programming including high-profile, highly viewed major league sports including the NFL.
WWE has received promotion during its stint with NBCU, including prominent placement on USA Network’s “Characters Wanted” ad campaign which pitched their entire show line-up to viewers as being about quirky and compelling lead “characters.” WWE wrestlers have also been cross-promoted on many NBC programs in recent years, including John Cena guest-hosting NBC’s “Today Show” at times.
NBCU had rights to match any over of $200 million or less, so Fox offered more – $205 million per year.
The story explains Fox’s rationale for essentially choosing WWE over UFC. One former Fox staffer was quoted as saying they couldn’t sell UFC to advertisers, but they will be able to sell WWE to advertisers, because WWE is more “family-friendly.” Said the former staffer: “If you have wrestling you can find cash. I think it’s a big win for Fox; it’s a great trade-off.”
In the end, WWE is reportedly set to receive $2.35 billion from Fox and NBCU for combined rights fees for Raw and Smackdown respectively, which equates to about $470 million per year. WWE is currently getting around $130 million per year from its existing NBCU deal that expires in September 2019.
•VIP members, check out Wade Keller’s PWTorch Newsletter cover story published last week detailing the TV deal (password required) here: VIP – COVER STORY: Fox grabs Smackdown for $1 billion – WWE revenues reach unprecedented levels with new TV deals