A new story from The Sporting News largely reiterates points Dave Meltzer made in Wrestling Observer about six weeks ago. You can read up on those here. But coming so soon after of a team from Fox broadcasting visiting SmackDown while WWE was in Los Angeles this week, it lends more weight to what could be one of the biggest stories of the year - if not the history of the business.
Sources tell Sporting News’ writer/producer Michael McCarthy Fox Sports is prepping a “major push” to win WWE’s television rights from NBCUniversal when negotiations on a new contract open up this spring. The new report reiterates something Meltzer’s story also said would be at the center of Fox’s pitch - moving Raw into network primetime on the main Fox channel. SmackDown would stay on cable at FS1.
There’s no mention of Fox making a move to purchase WWE outright in Sporting News’ report, however. Another difference is that while The Observer positioned Fox’s bid as a fallback position should they lose UFC, McCarthy’s story indicates the broadcaster prefers wrestling over the mixed martial arts promotion - at least at the annual $400 million price both WWE and UFC are said to be aiming to get on their next deal. Fox currently pays about $120 million per year for UFC, and allegedly offered $200 million in talks about a new contract (according to SportsBusiness Journal).
Sporting News and others are also reading a lot into Fox personality Colin Cowherd’s change of heart on wrestling this week. The host of The Herd has famously called WWE fans “booger eaters” on numerous occassions in the past. But in talking about his trip to Staples Center for SmackDown with co-host Jason Whitlock on their show Speak for Yourself on Weds. Feb. 28, he described the night as “... like a Van Halen concert in the ‘80s. Lot of fireworks, lot of noise, lot of performers, lot of crazy fans. It was a lot of fun.”
They also had an exchange where Whitlock talked about watching wrestling as a kid and saying he was, ”looking forward to perhaps getting more involved, watching pro wrestling in the future.”
Cowherd quipped back, “You should. A very good sport. Coming to a network near you...”
McCarthy called Cowherd a “professional weatervane” who’s “plugged-in with the thinking of Fox bosses”. Does it mean you should get ready Raw on Fox when WWE’s deal with NBCUniversal expires on Sept. 30, 2019?
WWE spokesperson Annie Kruger wouldn’t comment except to say the company hopes to announce plans with their United States TV partner between May and Sept. of this year.
Stay tuned, fellow booger eaters.