The Hollywood Reporter recently came with a report that explains how FOX bagged the SmackDown franchise of WWE.
The story references the pitch meetings to WWE Executives Stephanie McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque from FOX Sports. It was noted that NBCUniversal was expecting things to keep that way it is — a new 10-year deal worth $360 million for WWE’s programming that includes the weekly Monday Night RAW and SmackDown Live. However, their expectations were washed away when FOX entered the picture.
WWE and FOX struck a 5-year deal worth $1.025 billion for the SmackDown franchise. The deal is not yet finalised but is expected to close soon.
The meeting included Chairman and CEO of FOX Networks Group, Peter Rice, FOX Sports Executives Eric Shanks, Larry Jones and Rupert Murdoch, FOX’s 87-year-old patriarch. CEO Lachlan Murdoch was part of the meeting via phone. Alongside Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, Co-Presidents Michelle Wilson and George Barrios and CAA’s Nick Khan and Alan Gold were present as well.
Murdoch reportedly insisted that NBCUniversal was “embarrassed by your product” and Fox would fully embrace WWE with promos airing across Fox programming every night of the week and a studio show on FS1.
“We could not sell UFC” at Fox, a former staffer, The Hollywood Reporter. “And wrestling is family friendly. If you have wrestling you can find cash. I think it’s a big win for Fox; it’s a great trade-off.”
The meeting finally drew to a close with two deals. FOX will SmackDown Live for five years, starting in October 2019, provided the deal closes as expected. NBCUniversal will retain RAW at $265 million per year at three times the current value. The two deals are valued at $2.65 billion over 5 years which is a massive increase from the $130 million per year that NBCUniversal currently pays for both programs.