WWE Strikes Gold With New TV Deals

Don’t let anyone tell you Vince McMahon isn’t an absolute genius.

After what seemed like years of rumors and discussions, McMahon and WWE appear to have new TV deals in place for both Raw and Smackdown Live, and the deals are a bit staggering.

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter reported that NBCUniversal and WWE had reached an extension to keep Raw on USA Network for the foreseeable future at “three times its current value”, which was estimated to be around $240 million a year. As a result of NBCUniversal pulling out all the stops for Raw, they chose to pass on Smackdown Live, which made the blue brand a lucrative free agent.

On Monday, the other shoe dropped. After reportedly entertaining offers from Facebook and Amazon, WWE reached an agreement with Fox to air Smackdown for five years at $205 million a year, starting in October 2019. That’s a billion-plus dollar deal.

The Wrap reports that Smackdown will likely be moved back to Friday nights, so it will be interesting to see how the WWE schedule is affected.

Looking past the sheer volume of the numbers, let’s take a look at how we got to this point. It’s fairly simple, but there are a few big keys to WWE’s massive growth and success over the past five years.

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First, the rise of the WWE Network has to be accounted for. Between the on-demand library of classic content, original programming, and live PPVs, there’s something for everyone, and it’s evident why it’s on the rise. Getting into WWE programming has never been easier, and being able to watch a PPV for $10 a month instead of $40 a month is a huge deal for key audiences.

 Nathan Congleton/NBC

Nathan Congleton/NBC

Second, the mainstream success of people like Ronda Rousey, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar has to be considered. There are other examples, but these are the three most prevalent, as even the most casual of fan has heard of these three. Obviously, Rousey and Lesnar made their names in UFC, but Cena’s crossover stardom in movies and on the Today Show has made him a commodity in the industry, and Vince McMahon realizes that. Cena’s likely a significant reason why WWE didn’t move entirely to Fox, keeping Raw with NBCUniversal.

With all of this in mind, it’s pretty awesome as a lifelong fan to see the growth and mainstream success of WWE. I’m excited to see what these deals mean for the future of WWE.