WWE has reached an agreement to air their SmackDown Live brand on the FOX network, ESPN reports.
Specific terms of the agreement are unknown at this time, although the offer was described as "massive." According to ESPN, WWE has declined to go into specifics about the offer, and a FOX representative could not be immediately reached. The FOX on-screen partnership with the WWE goes in effect following the expiration of SmackDown Live on the USA Network, which will be September 30, 2019.
For fans, this could be a step in the right direction regarding Raw and SmackDown Live feeling like two distinct brands, which is something that many fans have criticized. As we previously reported, WWE CFO George Barrios was asked about Raw and SmackDown Live separating to two different companies, and he had this to say.
"Market determines that opportunity. From our end, [we don't think] it's an issue to split it," said Barrios. "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."
Previously, Raw and SmackDown were on different channels, but under the same parent company. Recently, NBC Universal reached an agreement with WWE to continue to air Raw, but SmackDown Live was left without a home. WWE and FOX has been in talks since last year regarding moving their product from USA. While FOX will not be acquiring Raw, it does give SmackDown Live an opportunity to showcase its brand with a different company.
Due to the television deals, WWE's stock has reached record highs in 2018, topping over $50 for the first time in history. While the total number of viewers have substantially decreased over the years, the general feeling is that WWE remains a viable product due to the fact that Raw and SmackDown Live has stayed in the same area of viewers for quite some time and has not witnessed a decrease compared to other shows from numerous networks this year.
In addition, WWE's acquisition of Ronda Rousey plays signficant assistance to the product as well. It could be argued that a reason why Rousey has been pushed to the Raw Women's Championship level so quickly, and why it was announced during an NBC Universal event, was for WWE to have a bigger mainstream presence, which helps the company in regards to television negotiations.
Rob Iapicca and Leroy Jenkins contributed to this article.