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Report: NBC to pay big for Raw, let SmackDown go to open bidding

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Just a tweet from The Hollywood Reporter’s Editorial Director Matthew Belloni at this point, but here’s an interesting item about WWE’s next television contract: apparently Belloni has a source (or sources) telling him NBC Universal is going to pay a lot of money to keep Raw under contract, but let Vince McMahon shop SmackDown to other networks:

Interesting timing, too, as earlier this week, WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios appeared at the 46th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference where he was asked about this possibility, and said the company was open to it (transcription courtesy Wrestling Inc):

“From our end, [we don’t think] it’s an issue to split it.

We have done it before. We think we’re pretty good at promoting and moving our viewers from one platform to another. Seven or eight years ago, it was only from one network to another network, which changed dramatically. We can’t over-emphasize it, is the nature of social and digital and helping do that.

So, we’ve been able to do it before, we would feel even more comfortable doing it today just because we have a direct connection with all our fans which we did not have seven or eight years ago. So, our ability to do that, if it made sense economically, there were partners interested, if we felt comfortable with the partners in question, operationally we would not see an issue with doing that.”

Which makes sense. When SmackDown was UPN/The CW/MyNetworkTV/SyFy, social media wasn’t nearly the force it is today. And WWE’s social media reach is amazing.

If they’re really getting triple the value (Belloni doesn’t specify if the “3X” figure is just three-times as much as they used to pay for Raw, or triple the entire last contract) AND can get another network or streaming service to pay for SmackDown? Wall Street is going to be very happy.*

This is far from an official report, but it’s another indication WWE is in a great position right now.

Stay tuned. We’ll let you know to which channel or channels.

UPDATE: Asked about the report, WWE replied “no comment”.

** UPDATE 2: Hollywood Reporter has posted a full story on their report. You can find that here. It says that Fox is a possible home for SmackDown, and seems to indicate that “three times its current value” refers to the price for Raw only.