In the ever-evolving landscape of professional wrestling broadcast agreements, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is currently seeking a new home for its flagship program, RAW. Recently, WWE solidified television deals for their SmackDown and NXT brands with USA Network and The CW, respectively. With these pieces in place, attention has shifted to securing the future of RAW.
According to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, high-level WWE executives, including Endeavor President Mark Shapiro, WWE CEO Nick Khan, and Chief Content Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque, met with Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) officials this week to discuss potential opportunities. A notable element of this pitch included the involvement of popular wrestler CM Punk. Meltzer’s sources report that demonstrating Punk’s contribution, such as merchandise sales, social media presence, and his effect on show ratings, was a focal point of the meeting. While Punk’s regular participation on the RAW brand is still speculative, his perceived value in negotiations was emphatically presented.
WWE’s discussions have potential ripple effects for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which is also engaging in talks with WBD for various deals, including potential streaming services. AEW currently facilitates streaming pay-per-view buys through WBD’s Bleacher Report platform. As the scenario unfolds, there is a question mark over whether WBD would entertain hosting two wrestling entities. However, Meltzer indicates that exclusivity is unlikely—the precedent set by Endeavor’s agreement with UFC, which did not obstruct rival promotion PFL from inking a deal with ESPN, suggests a similar situation could occur with WWE and AEW co-existing on WBD’s networks.
While the specific outcomes of WWE’s broadcast negotiations for RAW remain uncertain, Meltzer discloses that the brand’s prospective television deal is estimated at around $398 million annually. When drawing parallels, AEW is highlighted as a less expensive proposition, with costs stretching from $30 million to $50 million per hour for Dynamite, compared to RAW’s $124 to $133 million per hour. Furthermore, an intriguing Wrestlenomics study reveals AEW Dynamite’s viewership boasts the highest household median income, surpassing that of a RAW household, emphasizing AEW’s appeal to advertisers.
Despite such in-depth reporting, Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful tempers expectations, noting that current conversations about a deal between WWE and WBD are, for now, speculative. Sources from both WWE and WBD that are typically privy to such dealings remain out of the loop or skeptical about its fruition. In contrast, other influential insiders suggest a positive outcome may be more likely than anticipated. It is also noteworthy that AEW is not being sidelined in these developments, as they are briefed by WBD officials on the ongoing discussions.
It is a time of uncertainty and anticipation in the wrestling world as titans of the industry, WWE and AEW, navigate the complexities of television broadcast deals. The wrestling community eagerly awaits concrete news, as the future distribution of these popular brands hangs in the balance. Stay tuned for further updates as negotiations continue to unfold.