WWE’s ‘Raw,’ ‘SmackDown’ Could Find New Homes as Negotiating Window with NBCU Expires

WWE's John Cena

WWE and NBCUniversal have stepped away from the negotiating table without a new licensing deal in place for “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” that air on the USA and Syfy networks through October. NBCU can still match any deal that WWE secures from other interested networks for its shows.

“WWE’s exclusive negotiating period with NBCU for our flagship television programs, ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown,’ has now expired,” WWE said in a statement. The exclusive window was available to NBCU through Feb. 15, giving the company the opportunity to accept or reject WWE’s final offer.

“While we were unable to reach an agreement with NBCU during this period, we have certainly appreciated our long and productive partnership. With year-round, live programming that is highly coveted by programmers, distributors and advertisers, we are extremely excited about our future. We look forward to engaging with potential partners who recognize the value of having the #1 show on cable and live content delivered 52 weeks a year.”

WWE will now start negotiating with other companies, although a new deal with NBCU could still be brokered once it sees what other networks are willing to pay. WWE is considering multiple plans for its shows: airing them all with a single family of networks or splitting them up across multiple network owners.

Either way, the company is looking to significantly increase the $139.5 million in TV licensing fees WWE earns each year for its shows, and attempt to get closer to the rich network deals that sports organizations like the NBA, NHL NASCAR, as well as soccer command.

SEE ALSO: WWE Aims to Pin Down Rich New TV Rights Deals (EXCLUSIVE)

In the past, deals for WWE’s series were brokered individually on a staggered timeline, usually every three to four years. But WWE is making all of its shows available through new licensing deals at once as live “event” programming is more valuable than ever.

The three-hour “Raw” currently airs live, but WWE wants to also offer up “SmackDown” as a live show.

“We’ve never been in this situation where we’re able to go into the marketplace with both ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown,'” said Michelle Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer, WWE. “We’re going to let the marketplace decide the value of our programming.”

Further talks with NBCU are still expected to take place, despite an initial exclusive window having come and gone.

“Raw” is a huge ratings generator for USA Network in the weekly ratings; without “Raw” on its schedule, the network would drop from first place to as low as No. 4 among basic entertainment channels.

When it comes to collecting premium advertising dollars, however, USA Network earns the lowest CPMs for “Raw” than other programs, sources say. Translation: the ads that air during “Raw” are cheap. While WWE wants to get the same kind of licensing fees sports orgs get, it will have to find ways to boost those CPMs to make it as valuable. One thing hurting it is that its top PPV event, “WrestleMania,” doesn’t air on USA, for example. “WrestleMania 30” will stream live on the new WWE Network, that launches Feb. 24, and other PPV platforms, instead.

Still Syfy would also lose a sizable audience without “SmackDown,” which has raised viewership by 35% for the network. “Divas” is a hit for E! but perhaps has benefitted WWE more given that it’s helped the company attract more women, which currently make up around 35% of its audience.

“Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” will continue to air on USA Network and Syfy through Sept. 30.

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  1. Have WWE RAW say on USA/ & move Friday Smack Down USA Neetwork

  2. Adam says:

    If WWE wants to make a big time splash, there’s only one media conglomerate to give it to them: Fox. Raw would be carried on FX, SmackDown on FXX (to grow that channel), specials on Fox when applicable, and most importantly have a presence on Fox Sports 1/2. FS1 can show ppv-type programming during the summer time while FS2 can show repeats of Raw and SmackDown (among other programs). And don’t forget Fox Deportes, who can show Raw and SD in Spanish live, if other live programming doesn’t interfere. It’s either that option or going back and staying with NBCU.

    • Alex Roggio says:

      How about ABC?? Considering ABC has dedicated so much money to a dying brand like Dancing with the Stars which gets creamed by The Voice and WWE every week, maybe it would be best if they replaced their Monday line-up with 3 hours of WWE Raw?? It would be a first for Raw to be on broadcast television, but that would only improve on the consistent 1.4-1.8 ratings that WWE gets every week.

      • WWE Raw on ABC
      • WWE Smackdown on ESPN
      • WWE Saturday Morning Slam on Disney XD
      • Total Divas on Lifetime

      It would be a perfect fit for them to be honest. And sure, Raw would be competing with ESPN’s Monday Night Football on a weekly basis, but it’s even better for ABC as together both Raw and MNF will have a really strong male demo for both networks.

      And if Raw doesn’t meet expectations on ABC, Disney could easily move it to A&E, ESPN2 or any of the other millions of channels they have. It’s just good business.

      • Russell Pavlov says:

        ABC, I really don’t think so, let alone ESPN same thing, the networks that I’d love to see WWE programming on would definitely be the Turner Networks

        WWE Raw on TBS on Monday Nights (if TBS carrys MLB Playoffs, TNT)
        WWE Smackdown on TNT on Friday Nights (if TNT carrys NCAA March Madness 1st Friday of NCAA Tourney, CNN)
        WWE Saturday Morning Slam on TBS
        Total Divas on TruTV

        Because the Turner Networks haven’t called pro wrestling home since WCW folded more than a decade ago.

  3. Could part of the reason Raw’s CPMs are so low is that its audience is too wide? According to their site, the age groups of 50 made up 19, 23, 21, 37 percent of WWE’s television audience, respectively.

  4. TH says:

    Don’t be surprised if both RAW and Smackdown goes to the WWE Network. All WWE wants is to create more money and profit off of their shows. Some time in the future, that will probably happen.

  5. LC says:

    Here’s an idea: Why not bring ‘Raw’ and ‘Smackdown’ to My Network TV? It’s a local broadcast network that has some experience with one of the programs before…

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