WWE will see their television media rights deals for Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown with the USA Network and FOX expire next year and WWE CEO Nick Khan has been in talks with several huge TV networks for quite some time in order to secure those television media rights deals and since the WWE is no longer in their exclusive negotiations window with the USA Network and FOX, they can speak with other networks to make sure they are able to secure the right TV network for the company.
Over the past few months network giant Disney has shown keen interest in the WWE’s TV rights, but the network plans on airing WWE programming on FX instead of ESPN, which is a much smaller TV station but as the network feels ESPN can’t guarantee a specific night of the week for the WWE’s television shows due to their rotating slate of games as ESPN currently have deals with the NFL, NBA, MLB and numerous other sports leagues. WWE has other options as well such as Amazon Prime and Warner Bros. Discovery.
ESPN’s President of Content Burke Magnus recently made an appearance on the Sports Media podcast with Richard Deitsch, where he was asked how their relationship with WWE and how their view on WWE changed a few years ago, which makes it a possibility for future TV rights deal.
This is what Burke Magnus said:
“It wouldn’t be a pod with you without a WWE question so I do appreciate that. By the way, I’m overdue, I’m overdue to go to an event. I haven’t been in a little while but… yes, yes (he jokingly responded when it was mentioned that Nick Khan could get him tickets). I think it continues to be — I guess from a glass half-full perspective, I’d say I believe our companies — and this changed a couple of years ago so this is not breaking news but I believe our point of view towards WWE as a potential distribution outlet for their events, I think we passed that a long time ago and I think we’re now in the bucket of, hey, if their rights are available and there’s a deal for us that works and a deal for them that works with us, I think it’s certainly a possibility. There’s no hesitation anymore from a brand perspective or from a live event versus scripted. Their fans and our viewers, there’s tremendous overlap so, to me, it’s just about the business of it and is there something that works. I may have said this to you last time we talked but, to their credit, they run a 52-week-a-year business, right?… And I’m thinking, well, let me start from the linear perspective. 52 weeks a year is impossible for us to do on almost any configuration based on the other rights that we have. So that actually cuts against us from a linear perspective but on the digital side, if we were to be in business with them on a streaming or direct-to-consumer or distribution or a pay-per-view distribution or other such thing, I think that’s more easily achievable and they have a great product… Well I’m not (talking to WWE). So, I’ll just leave it at that.”
You can check out Burke Magnus’ comments in the embedded audio player below. H/T to PostWrestling for transcribing the quotes.