As we have reported in the past, WWE’s current television deal with NBC-Universal is set to expire in the fall of 2019. WWE hopes to get another deal in place, with an announcement coming between next May and September. Most expect they will stay with NBC-Universal, though there may be an outside party looking to make a bid.
According to a report from Sports Business Journal, WWE met with FOX representatives earlier this year as part of a road show (meetings were also held with CBS, Amazon, Disney, and YouTube) promoting their content. The WWE contingent consisted of top executives, including Triple H and George Barrios (Chief Strategy and Financial Officer). With FOX possibly losing the rights to UFC, the report notes that FOX may consider WWE as a suitable replacement, likely putting the brand on FS-1.
WWE can’t negotiate with other networks until next spring due to their contract with NBC-Universal. The USA Network has long been the home of WWE television. RAW briefly moved to TNN/Spike-TV in the early 2000s, but the rest of the history of the Monday night show has been on USA. SmackDown has moved around, originally airing on network television (UPN), before landing on the CW, MyNetworkTV, SyFy, and finally a move to USA. USA consistently ranks as one of the most watched cable television networks, largely due to their WWE programming, so a loss of the company would hit them hard. They are slated to pay WWE $180 million for television rights this year, so it will come down to an economic cost/benefit analysis when they make the bid to renew.
For what it’s worth, WWE has aired on FOX in the past. Saturday Night’s Main Event aired two episodes on the channel in the early 1990s, including the last-ever broadcast of the show until it was briefly brought back in the mid-2000s.