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Nick Khan on Vince’s creative role, WWE returning to PPV, Pat McAfee, more

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Ahead of a huge weekend in Southern California for WrestleMania 39, and with industry-shaping moves being considered in the months ahead, WWE CEO Nick Khan joined The Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast for a wide ranging discussion.

• While Vince McMahon focuses on a potential sale of the company, Khan talked to John Ourand & Andrew Marchand about the other way WWE plans to maximize shareholder value over the next couple years — with their next round of media rights contracts. That process starts “somewhere around this weekend”. Existing partners FOX and NBCUniversal will getting an exclusive negotiating window — ”the first bite at the apple”, the CEO called it.

The hosts asked Khan how much more he expects the rights deals to be worth this time around. He wouldn’t answer except to say, “I expect a lot.” He asked them for their estimates, and Marchand said twice the current multi-billion dollar deals. Ourand thinks WWE will get more than twice the amount the got five years ago.

• Another piece of the media rights puzzle is the streaming WWE Network, which is currently licensed to NBCUniversal’s Peacock service in the United States. Khan says Peacock execs credit WWE for a “substantial” chunk of the streamers 20 million subscribers, as the “stickiness” of WWE content leads viewers to discover other programming on Peacock.

He said WWE would be open to a moving premium live events to a pay-per-view model, similar to how marquee UFC cards on offered on ESPN+, offering a hypothetical that if Peacock offered five-times their current rights fees but wanted to sell PLEs at an upcharge to justify, WWE would listen. Khan did say WWE doesn’t want to price fans out of the product, however. He cited the availability of $25 tickets for WrestleMania as an example of their desire to make sure everyone can afford to be a part of the WWE experience.

• Vince McMahon’s role at the company came up, including the persistent talk of him reassuming control of creative. Khan said Vince is “not that involved. Paul Levesque [Triple H] is the head of creative, was named the head of creative in August. Vince has embraced that, he’s respect that. It’s also his son-in-law, so they have their own dynamic.” How notable is it that he didn’t say Vince isn’t involved at all, and how much does the father & son-in-law dynamic cover for? We’ll let you make your own determination.

As he has before, Khan sought to put McMahon’s brief retirement and the scandals that led to it as strictly a business matter, and one that’s in the past. The CEO credited shareholders and company employees for “staying calm” since that story broke last year, and wrapped up his remarks on the topic by saying, “Fortunately, we’re on the other side of it.”

• Regarding the WWE future of former SmackDown announcer and one of the stars of WrestleMania 38, Pat McAfee? Khan indicated he won’t be at WrestleMania 39, but made it very clear WWE hopes to stay in the Pat McAfee business.

• On the possibility of Roman Reigns following Dwayne Johnson, John Cena & Dave Bautista to Hollywood, Khan said he thinks Reigns can make that leap. WWE would support such a move, and hinted that conversations about it are currently taking place. He expects Roman to remain a part of WWE as he explores movie & television options, however.

You can listen to Nick Khan’s entire appearance on The Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast here.

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