The exclusive negotiating window between World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and its current broadcasters, Fox and Comcast/USA Network, has concluded without the establishment of a new deal. This development is not entirely unexpected as significant broadcasting agreements often enter the open market, where Fox and USA Network are expected to remain strong contenders for renewal of their contracts with “Friday Night Smackdown” and “Monday Night Raw” respectively.
Under the current contracts, which are valid until October 2024, Comcast pays $265 million per year to broadcast “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network, while Fox contributes $205 million annually for “Friday Night Smackdown.”
Sources from the NY Post have indicated that Disney, through its FX network, has expressed interest in securing the WWE broadcasting rights. This potential agreement would be an alternative to a placement on ESPN due to the latter’s numerous game commitments and sports-centric focus.
It’s worth noting that the existing five-year, $1 billion WWE streaming deal with Peacock is not currently in play, given that it will not expire until March 2026, just prior to WrestleMania 42.
In addition to Disney’s interest, Amazon Prime Video has also emerged as a potential contender for WWE rights, fitting into their existing strategy of investing in significant standalone events. Other potential bidders could include Warner Bros. Discovery and Apple, while CBS is not expected to participate in the bidding process. Netflix may also become a contender in the future, contingent on its willingness to invest in large-scale deals of this nature.
Despite the possibility of changing its broadcasting distribution to a streaming service, WWE’s programming historically maintains a strong viewership. During the 2022 Olympics, when “Raw” moved from USA Network to SyFy, it retained 87% of its audience compared to its average viewership on the main network in the four weeks before the shift, according to Nielsen.
Currently, Fox and USA Network are expected to retain their existing WWE contracts, but Disney and Amazon are also anticipated to make a strong play for the rights. However, it remains early in the process, and further developments are expected.