The WWE’s domestic television rights package could be in line for a massive increase, following a report from The Hollywood Reporter.
THR is reporting that NBC Universal is expected to retain the domestic rights for “Raw”, a program that launched in January 1993 and has aired uninterrupted on the USA Network since October 2005. THR adds that with the retention of Raw expected, NBC Universal is putting “SmackDown Live” on the open market for a new home, with speculation that Fox could land the WWE’s Tuesday night program.
The major fact revealed by THR is that Raw could be renewed at close to three times its current value by the USA Network, which would lead to an enormous boost in the WWE’s television rights fees, without factoring in whatever SmackDown Live can garner from another network.
The WWE’s deal with NBC expires in the fall of 2019, with WWE stating that they plan to have an announcement of a new deal in place before September 2018. The pending television rights deal has led the WWE’s stock to hit record highs, closing at $43.59 on Wednesday.
It was estimated by John Ourand at Sports Business Journal that NBC Universal paid WWE approximately $180 million in 2017 for their entire U.S. rights package.
SmackDown Live is the WWE’s second biggest television franchise and launched on the UPN network in August 1999 on Thursday nights. The show aired on My Network TV for two-years from 2008 – 2010 before it was brought into the NBC Universal network airing on SyFy Friday nights with the network paying a reported $30 million per year for the show.
SmackDown was later moved to the USA Network in January 2016 and switched nights that summer to air live on Tuesdays beginning in July 2016, which coincided with the WWE’s second attempt at a brand split between Raw and SmackDown.