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Report: Disney, Amazon among players for media rights as WWE opens up negotiations

ESPN’s YouTube

WWE’s existing television contracts for Raw & SmackDown expire in October of next year, and CEO Nick Khan is leading the company’s push to maximize their next media rights deals for those shows — and gauging interest in NXT and maybe some new properties in the process.

Khan confirmed last month their exclusive negotiating window with existing SmackDown partner FOX had closed, so the blue brand is on the open market. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports Raw has now joined it since USA-parent company NBCUniversal’s exclusivity period also ended.

With bidding open for both WWE’s marquee television properties, Marchand’s report also discusses some big names who could land Raw and/or SmackDown:

• Disney is interested, but the Mouse House wouldn’t put WWE programming on ESPN — it would instead air on FX. There’s likely some concern about fit between WWE’s pre-determined matches and ESPN’s coverage of “real” sports with unscripted competition. But the FX option seems to be due to the fact that ESPN’s contracts with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and other sports leagues mean they can’t “guarantee a specific night of the week due to their rotating slate of games”.

• Amazon Prime Video will be in talks with WWE. The streamer’s shown a willingness to spend big for live programming, as evidenced by their Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL.

• Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery are seen as “dark horse” candidates for Raw and SmackDown rights. Regarding rumors of AEW partner WBD pursuing WWE programming, Marchand writes: “One nugget I was told that may interest wrestling fans is that Warner Bros. Discovery does not have to stay exclusive to AEW. It would be something if it got in on WWE. But I don’t see it yet.”

WWE’s existing five year deals with FOX and NBCUniversal were each worth more than a billion dollars. Khan has said he’s confident the next Raw and SmackDown contracts will be significantly bigger.

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