On May 17, 2018, WWE’s stock surged 15.4% after reports of the company nearing a deal with NBCUniversal to keep Monday Night RAW on the USA Network for almost three times its current value headlined worldwide. SmackDown Live, however, is not a part of the said deal after NBCUniversal declined to renew the deal for the blue brand’s weekly show.
According to Variety, three major players that seem to be the front-runners to bag SmackDown are FOX, Facebook and Amazon. FOX has been rumored for more than a couple of months now to get the SmackDown franchise while Facebook appeared on the scene after being the official and exclusive host for WWE Mixed Match Challenge. However, it is to be noted that WWE was unhappy regarding the declining numbers for that show on Facebook Live week after week.
Reports claim that if the SmackDown brand moves to FOX, the show will continue to run for 2 hours. That might not be the case if its bagged by FOX Sports 1.
“We think ‘SmackDown’ is due for a big raise as well, and likely still viewed as a bargain for several players reportedly interested,” said Eric Katz, senior analyst for Wells Fargo.
With FOX now set to share UFC rights with ESPN, a few scheduling times might open up to be the perfect fit for WWE’s programming.
“The company sits in a much stronger financial and negotiating position now than in 2014 (having just launched the WWE Network while PPV was winding down),” reads a Guggenheim analysis of WWE’s present television renewals landscape. “We believe that WWE stands to make significant headway during its coming television contract negotiations due to an enhanced brand, new [business-to-business] relationships, more potential bidders than ever, and a contract that under-indexes other live premium programming.”