MR. TITO: What Does the New Smackdown TV Deal with USA Network Mean for WWE/TKO?

Last week was an interesting one for WWE, as they released many office employees and in-ring talents but they also announced a BRAND NEW television deal for 2024-2025. This was regarding their WWE Smackdown show that is currently on Friday Nights with the FOX television network. Starting in September 2024, the show will return to USA Network and remain on Fridays and Comcast/NBC/Universal will pay $1.4 billion for the entirety of the deal ($280 million per year).

Contrast this to what WWE reportedly received from FOX to air Smackdown on network television on Fridays with a 5 year deal for around $1 billion for 2019-2024. This would represent a 40% increase in the network payout, but a major loss in potential viewership going from about 115 million available households for FOX to just above (but declining) 80 million for USA Network.

Personally, I feel this is a step down for the WWE and will mark Smackdown as the official “B-Show” of the brand extension. Why Roman Reigns is on a freakin’ Friday Night show was due to the reach of the FOX Network, hence why they are consistently 2 million and above. When it’s on USA Network, I could almost guarantee a consistent BELOW 2 million viewership even if Roman Reigns and the Bloodline storyline is on that show.

Which is why I believe that whomever buys Monday Night RAW is going to get the premiere WWE show. Furthermore, I believe that the WWE RAW deal will net potentially $2 billion and the promise that Roman Reigns will be on that show.

After TKO/WWE announced the deal for Smackdown last week, the TKO stock lost like $20 per share (going $100ish to $80ish). Why? Because the impression is that WWE downgraded their Smackdown deal.

Here’s a brief history of the WWE’s television deals, just to help you understand how investors think.

Deal prior to 2014: $90 million per year from NBC/Universal for all WWE shows
Deal from 2014-2019: Between $150 to $175 million per year from NBC/Universal for all WWE shows

Now, if you’ll recall during 2013-2014, Vince McMahon was caught boasting to investors that he’d “triple” the prior television deal offer. Well, it didn’t double it… Hence why the WWE stock took a major bath during the Spring of 2014 when this new deal was announced.

Deal from 2019-2024: Combined $400 million per year from NBC/Universal for RAW & NXT and FOX for Smackdown. In other words, around $1 billion from each for 5 years…

And now we have $1.4 billion for Smackdown, which is 40% increase… That seems high, as is $400 million more for Smackdown, but it could have been higher and that is how the investors valuate things. WWE seriously went from $150-175 million per year for 2014-2019 to $400 million per year for 2019-2024, so hence investors are expecting at LEAST to double it for one of the shows. Instead, it just increased 40%…

That’s how they think… It’s cut-throat, yes, but your prior deal more than doubled the TV revenue, so why couldn’t you do the same with the Smackdown deal? And why are you leaving FOX with 115 households and going to USA Network with 80 million? And maybe WWE could have got more with the bonus of 4 NBC Network specials?

But the ACE IN THE HOLE is WWE Monday Night RAW… I believe that RAW becomes the #1 show again and is going to make a BIG SPLASH somewhere. I’d be SHOCKED if RAW didn’t earn $2 billion for 5 years… Shocked, I say! Hell, maybe more.

Maybe this is the trade-off that USA Networks by obtaining Smackdown? They realized that WWE was asking too much for this show and maybe had aspirations of moving RAW to FOX instead? And by doing this deal with Comcast/NBC/Universal, does it guarantee that WWE Network remains on Peacock whose deal expires during March 2026? I think so… It keeps WWE in the good graces of a business relationship with Comcast/NBC/Universal and both sides will make money on this reasonable deal. It’s a “hometown discount” to an old business partner who helped not only make WWE successful, but paid them lots of money in the process.

I believe that Monday Night RAW will go to one of the following suitors:

(1) Warner Bros. Discovery
Think back to what Viacom did to ECW when WWE’s television deal was up during 2000. They were airing ECW’s show on Friday Nights on TNN from late 1999 until the WWE deal was signed during 2000. ECW was abruptly dropped. Why buy the Go-bots when you can get Transformers instead? AEW should be sweating right now, because their recent drama with CM Punk, losing Cody Rhodes and Jade Gargill, and other image issues (Jon Moxley hardcore matches) could cause WBD to pivot just like Viacom pivoted during 2000 and dropped ECW like a bad habit. WORSE YET for AEW is that WWE signed a deal with NBC/Universal for WWE Smackdown, so hence it takes ANY of their channels off the table! Making this less of a possibility is the MAX channel airing AEW events, but again, as a kid, you wanted the Transformers (WWE) toys instead of the cheaper toy Go-bots (AEW).

(2) Disney for FX or ESPN
Did you notice who scooped Jade Cargill to WWE and then had an interview with her? Uh huh… Something could be going on there. Disney not only owns several ESPN channels, but the FX channel as well. FX could be a great fit for RAW and could possibly allow them to push the adult boundaries a little more. Then again, FX is owned by Disney who has been censoring everything lately… I don’t think that it’s Disney in this case because the are losing money on all fronts right now, whether it is ESPN from overpaying for content rights, major motion picture flops, or some reductions in the values of their brands. ESPN breaking the story of Jade going to the WWE has me thinking that something is up…

(3) FOX Network
If WWE’s programming was on something other than Friday for a network, it would draw more than 2-2.5 million as they are doing now. While what FOX has now is drawing like 3-5 million on Monday Nights, it could be moved elsewhere as they aren’t major trademark shows (both reality shows there now). By returning RAW to 2 hours at 8-10pm timeslot, they could air any programming at 10pm (though many FOX channels have news at 10pm). After FOX sold off all of their studios and content, they are now content buyers. WWE programming, though it draws lower than Hollywood shows, is actually way cheaper than having 2, 3, or 4 shows in a same 2 hour period. Hence why they easily paid $1 billion for 5 years for WWE Smackdown.

(4) Amazon Prime
With Smackdown going to USA Networks, I just don’t see this as an option now. Initially, I could have seen WWE Smackdown remaining on FOX and RAW maybe jumping to Amazon as the secondary show. However, with Smackdown sort of downgrading to USA Network (in terms of viewership), I just don’t see RAW being placed behind a paywall. RAW is going big and widely available, which is why I believe options 1, 2, 3, or even 5 are happening versus Amazon. Now, NXT has a great chance of appearing on Amazon…

(5) The CW
This is where I think Paramount Global possibly gets into the game, maybe placing Monday Night RAW on the CW Network but ALSO streaming it live off of the Paramount+ at the same time. That way, if you have any issues accessing the CW Network, you could just watch it on Paramount+ instead.

Then, you have the matter of NXT‘s show. I could see them as a consolation prize for anyone not receiving Monday Night RAW. Maybe RAW goes to TBS or TNT, while NXT airs on FX or Amazon Prime. I just don’t see 1 network agreeing to host both shows, especially if desired to air on Mondays and Tuesdays like it does now with USA Network. I could also see NXT becoming a Peacock exclusive show, or exclusive to whomever acquires the WWE Network beyond March 2026.

Let’s be honest here… WWE is in a GREAT place right now. So Smackdown’s deal seems like a letdown, but we need to see what RAW gets as a deal before making any more assumptions. Hence why TKO’s stock could be a steal at $81 before the RAW television deal is later announced (DISCLAIMER: NoDQ & Mr. Tito is not responsible for any investment choices you make!). I believe there is big money being thrown around for RAW and with the combined forces of Vince McMahon, Nick Khan, and Endeavor’s executives in the same room, some television network is about to fork out $2 BILLION for RAW or something close to it (like $1.8 Billion).

And whomever gets RAW will get Roman Reigns… That’s the prized pig out of this, and hence why Warner Bros. Discovery, Disney, Paramount Global, FOX, or even Amazon will pay major money for RAW’s television rights.

But let’s be honest here… This isn’t 2019 WWE. They have MORE STARS now than they did back then. Back in 2019, WWE was too reliant on Brock Lesnar to carry things and they were over-pushing guys in the wrong gimmicks or on the wrong heel/face sides down our throats. Now, however, WWE has Roman Reigns crushing it, LA Knight and Cody Rhodes as legitimate babyface options, Seth Rollins has been solid lately, lots of talented women (plus adding Jade Cargill on top of that), and tons of younger wrestlers ready to rise up (Breakker, Solo, etc.). And 2019 WWE didn’t have the Endeavor machine backing them, either. This is an entirely different ballgame from a marketing perspective.

Just listen to what Jade Cargill proudly said on her ESPN interview after it was announced she joined WWE: “I’m the first signing by TKO”. That is a gigantic statement that should make AEW’s heads spin, because I believe a major talent exodus is coming. MJF will be a WWE superstar by 2024-2025, and that’s another thing that a TV Network can count on… Jade is the first of many because WWE under the Endeavor banner is going to be a marketing machine that will pump out stars and make everyone household names again.

The price tag for Monday Night RAW is going to get expensive, folks, especially with the WWE actually growing now and Endeavor behind it. It’s going to be a bidding process and someone is going to (a) take out big commercial loans and/or (b) place funds in escrow to pay for this. And it will be worth it because WWE is on the upswing and placing focus to make RAW become the #1 wrestling show again is going to be HUGE for the pro wrestling industry.

Just please knock that damn show back down to 2 hours. 3 hours per weekly television show is just too much, especially coming off of a Pay Per View weekend and then demanding us to watch NXT on Tuesdays. Come on, 2 hour RAW! But take my advice if you HAVE to keep it as 3 hours, make that 3rd hour for “mature audiences”. Between 10-11pm, why not? Let’s get some rough angles, hot women, more violence, and some vulgar language. Stop treating your audience like children and feed them more mature content. Just for that 1 hour…

Make RAW 2 hours again!

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