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It sounds like WWE’s future on FOX is out of their hands


The FOX network currently pays WWE over $200 million each year to air SmackDown on Friday nights. WWE’s television deal with FOX began in fall 2019 and expires in fall 2024.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley TMT conference today, FOX CEO Lachlan Murdoch was asked to comment on the network’s future relationship with WWE, with the context of a WWE sale in mind.

Here is what he said, courtesy of Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston:

“They’ve been great partners throughout our partnership, our relationship. If they ultimately sell the business, I hope the acquirer, or I’m sure the acquirer will be as good a partner as they’ve been. I hope the management team stays intact because they’ve done a tremendous, tremendous job.

From a rights point of view, we’re focused on their rights renewal. We haven’t engaged with them on the rights yet. We’re ready to engage with them when they ask, when they’re ready. But ultimately, our appetite for renewal depends on what happens with the rest of our sports portfolio.”

That WWE has not yet approached FOX about negotiations for the next TV deal is consistent with WWE’s public statement on exploring a sale of the company before focusing on TV deals. This is why WWE is expected to make a decision on a sale of the company by this summer, as the company will need to transition to negotiating TV deals by the fall.

However, Murdoch’s final sentence is the one that captures my attention. He puts a conditional statement on FOX’s “appetite for renewal,” and it’s a condition that is out of WWE’s hands. Depending on how things go with the rest of the FOX sports portfolio, the network executives may very well decide that WWE simply doesn’t fit into their business model going forward.

It’s a reminder that, while the USA network is heavily dependent on WWE Raw to bring in viewers, FOX operates on a different level. Even with SmackDown’s ratings success, FOX doesn’t need WWE programming on its network. And if WWE loses out on that $200+ million per year because FOX decides to move in a different direction after 2024, it might not be so easy to find a suitor who will pay WWE such a high figure for their TV product.

It will be interesting to see how WWE’s future relationship with FOX plays out, once we get past the sale window, that is.

Do you think WWE SmackDown will remain on FOX beyond 2024, Cagesiders?

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