WWE stock is already nearing historic highs and might be about to break the ceiling as investor confidences appears to be remarkably strong behind the brand, whether Raw or SmackDown Live.
CBS Sports reports that the McMahon professional wrestling enterprise is one of the hottest commodities on cable, a medium where advertisers and broadcasters are hungry for content that consumers watch live. Both the red and the blue brand seem to qualify, with an average viewership over the past year for Raw coming in at around three million viewers and Smackdown nipping at its heel with a little under 2.6 million viewers on Tuesday nights.
For some time now these two WWE weeklies have been both broadcast by NBCUniversal on the USA Network. Now that previous contracts for both shows have expired, the McMahon family and their investors seemed prime to ask much more in the next round of bargaining – initial reports are suggesting that NBCU will retain Raw on Monday nights but will pay approximately three times more for the programming than they did for their last contract. With regards to SmackDown Live, The Hollywood Reporter is claiming that Fox will be paying over $1 billion for a five year deal for the show.
“The new deal, which is nearing completion and is worth $205 million annually, is expected to begin in October 2019, and will mark a three-fold increase over what NBCUniversal is currently paying WWE to air ‘SmackDown’ on its USA network… WWE is said to have had an even higher bid from a third party – and enthusiastic interest overall. But WWE executives are said to have embraced Fox’s commitment to heavily promote ‘SmackDown’ across a robust sports portfolio that includes the NFL and Major League Baseball.”
Moving networks isn’t the only major change in the works according to industry insiders. While Raw is slated to remain stationary, there are early calls for Smackdown to be aired on Friday nights at 8 EST, giving lots of breathing room between the two competing rosters, marketing teams, and creative rooms. Fan speculation on reddit’s /squaredcircle is already red-hot, with nearly a thousand comments being made on the thread pertaining to the big moves. Because Fox Network is seen as the big dog of cable – with all apologies to Roman Reigns and his yard – fan rumors seem to center around a second Superstar Shake-up that would see some of the more recognizable faces return to Shane McMahon’s little show that could. Ronda Rousey and Roman Reigns seem to be names bandied about but, at this early juncture, it is speculation only.
WWE’s SmackDown Live has been a staple for wrestling fans since 1999, with the blue and white colors always signaling a chance to see an up and comer or an angle that may be too eccentric for the Monday night crowd. In kayfabe and in the business pages, SmackDown was to play second fiddle to Raw, the figurative younger sibling always seeking to impress, and eventually surpass their older and more well-known counterpart.