Burke Magnus sheds light on ESPN’s viewpoint on WWE as a distribution partner.
Collaboration between WWE and ESPN has seen Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman recently appearing on First Take with Stephen A. Smith to promote SummerSlam. The lineups for nights one and two of WrestleMania 39 were exclusively revealed on ESPN earlier this year.
Burke Magnus, ESPN’s President of Content spoke in-depth about the sports-entertainment company during his appearance on Sports Media with Richard Deitsch. He was asked how ESPN feels about their relationship with WWE. Burke says their viewpoint towards being a content distributor for WWE events changed a few years ago so it’s not breaking news, but specifically on that front, they passed that a long time ago.
He added that if WWE’s rights are available, then it’s a possibility. There’s no more hesitation from ESPN about live event versus scripted or brand perspective. WWE runs a 52-week-a-year business and Burke said that’s impossible for ESPN from a linear perspective. On the digital front, he thinks it’s achievable.
It wouldn’t be a pod with you without a WWE question so I do appreciate that. By the way, I’m overdue, I’m overdue to go to an event. I haven’t been in a little while but… yes, yes (he jokingly responded when it was mentioned that Nick Khan could get him tickets). I think it continues to be — I guess from a glass half-full perspective, I’d say I believe our companies — and this changed a couple of years ago so this is not breaking news but I believe our point of view towards WWE as a potential distribution outlet for their events, I think we passed that a long time ago and I think we’re now in the bucket of, hey, if their rights are available and there’s a deal for us that works and a deal for them that works with us, I think it’s certainly a possibility. There’s no hesitation anymore from a brand perspective or from a live event versus scripted. Their fans and our viewers, there’s tremendous overlap so, to me, it’s just about the business of it and is there something that works. I may have said this to you last time we talked but, to their credit, they run a 52-week-a-year business, right?… And I’m thinking, well, let me start from the linear perspective. 52 weeks a year is impossible for us to do on almost any configuration based on the other rights that we have. So that actually cuts against us from a linear perspective but on the digital side, if we were to be in business with them on a streaming or direct-to-consumer or distribution or a pay-per-view distribution or other such thing, I think that’s more easily achievable and they have a great product… Well I’m not (talking to WWE). So, I’ll just leave it at that.
Back in June, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that WWE is free to negotiate with other broadcasters for the U.S. domestic rights to Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.
The deal to combine WWE and UFC into a merged company under the Endeavor umbrella is expected to be finalized in September.
If the quote in this article is used, please credit Sports Media with Richard Deitsch with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcription.