On January of 1993, WWE launched the Monday Night Raw series on the USA Network. They continued their relationship with USA until 2000, before moving to TNN/Spike TV until 2005. WWE returned to USA in 2005, and went to three hours in 2012.
There has been much speculation of WWE possibly moving to a new network, or at least commencing a bidding war to land the most profitable slot. Their deals with NBC Universal, which includes RAW and SmackDown (as well as Tribute To The Troops), expire on September 30, 2019, however WWE CFO George Barrios said that the company hopes to announce their U.S. distribution plans between May and September of this year. WWE's current contract with NBC Universal generated $180 million last year.
Months ago, Triple H had a meeting with the executives of FOX Sports about potentially airing WWE product on their network. The reason for the potential move would be due to UFC possibly leaving FOX, which would leave space open for another combat sport to fill. WWE has worked with FOX in the past, and the network aired a couple of episodes of Saturday Night's Main Event in the 90s, as well as a WrestleMania 11 special in 1995.
Dave Meltzer reported in the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter that there is also discussion of FOX possibly buying WWE, which would mean that the network would have them for good. This would also mean that rights fees would not be an issue moving forward, similar to what Viacom did with buying Bellator. Viacom has also shown some interest in having a pro wrestling show on their channels, but that interest does not necessarily involve WWE.
According to Meltzer, one person close to the situation believes McMahon is not selling his majority interest just yet. If the shares hit $40, Vince would be able to sell small pieces of it while maintaining full voting control. Since McMahon launched Alpha Entertainment, one may wonder if he decided to start a new company based on the aforementioned factors.
It was noted that if WWE does move to FOX, Raw could return to two hours, most likely from 8pm - 10pm. This is due to most FOX stations having a newscast at 10pm. SmackLive Live would move over to FS1, with WWE putting more content on FS1 and FS2 to boost ratings. Although moving to FOX would be a significant jump in potential viewership for Raw, SmackDown Live going to FS1 would actually be a drop in the potential viewers.
Of course, if FOX resumes their relationship with UFC, these discussions would become less likely, and WWE would most likely maintain airing on USA. However, the idea of FOX having two combat sports programs on their channels is not an impossible concept. The $200 million per deal that FOX has with UFC is not a significant increase from what USA is paying WWE, but one analyst predicts that the number of bidders could get WWE's price to $400 million. Although UFC has talked of $400-$450 million, people close to the situation have told the Wrestling Observer that they do not believe the deal with go that high.
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Subscribe to The Wrestling Observer by clicking here. Each issue has coverage and analysis of all the major news, plus history pieces. New subscribers can also receive free classic issues.