While Vince McMahon & his soon-to-be boss Ari Emanuel are pitching the big picture of Endeavor acquiring WWE in order to merge it with UFC and spin it off as a new company, current WWE CEO Nick Khan was answering more specific questions from Axios about the future.
The most pressing matter is WWE’s television deals for Raw and SmackDown, which expire next year. In pre-sale interviews, Khan said WWE would start the renegotiation process with current rights holders NBCUniversal and FOX during the just-completed WrestleMania weekend. Based on what he told Axios, that plan remains intact. UFC and WWE will pursue separate linear TV deals, and NBC and FOX will have an opportunity to ensure the rights to Raw and SmackDown don’t hit the open market:
“The most important thing is that NBC and Fox, from a WWE point of view, feel respected in the process. So we’re going to enter those conversations with them... hopefully it’s robust, and we don’t get out of the ‘right of first window’ [and] we strike a deal with each of them. If we’re not able to do that, we’ll see what the marketplace has to say and ultimately choose the right partner for the WWE audience in our shareholders.”
NBCUniversal is also WWE’s streaming partner, with content currently on NBC’s Peacock service in the United States. That contract expires in 2026. UFC has a deal with Disney-owned ESPN+ for streaming which is up in 2025. He wouldn’t rule out bundling the wrestling and MMA streaming rights, but indicated Peacock will have a chance to remain the home of WWE Network:
“The good folks at NBCU have been tremendous partners to us. So let’s see what they have to say.”
The subject of returning some or all of WWE’s premium live events to a pay-per-view model — something Khan floated last week, much to the consternation of wrestling fans who’ve grown accustomed to getting all the company’s weekend shows as part of a monthly streaming subscription — wasn’t addressed.
Other points of note from the interview:
• He wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of layoffs post-merger, a common occurrence as redundant departments and employees are often left go after an acquisition: “An integration team is going to be put into place between both companies in short order, and we’ll know — we’ll have a lot more in the next week or two.”
• Khan said that he and UFC President Dana White are close friends. While they’ll run their operations separately under Emanuel, executive chairman McMahon & others in the new corporation, “if there are fun things to do [together] we’re going to figure it out.”
• Endeavor has resisted doing business with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the government-ordered murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Khan says WWE’s business arrangement with the KSA will continue: “[O]ur relationship with The Kingdom is a terrific partnership for which we’re appreciative of, and you know, nothing in terms of anyone else’s prior experience will affect that. We think that we’ve delivered the product in the way that the Kingdom wanted it delivered. We have a multiple year agreement with them in place. We’re excited to do a show — we’ll be back there May 27 for a big premium live event.“
• The integration of sports betting into the new company’s offering is being planned/discussed. He didn’t have any details today, “but if you give me a couple of weeks, we should pick it up then.”
Should be a newsworthy next few weeks, fellow worked & shoot fight fans.