Wrestling aficionados, bring out your foam fingers and grab your pay-per-view snacks as there’s some big news regarding your favorite sport. In a big shakeup to the wrestling entertainment landscape, WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” is poised to make a significant return to the NBCUniversal-owned USA Network in October 2024.
The cracking move is a part of a five-year domestic media rights partnership between the formidable WWE, a part of TKO Group Holdings Inc., and NBCUniversal. This deal doesn’t just bring back the legendary SmackDown to the USA Network; it also marks the advent of a series of four primetime specials per year to air on NBC.
The partnership will feature wrestling superstars such as John Cena, Roman Reigns, Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, and Rey Mysterio in the ring, ensuring a high-octane sporting thrill ride for fans.
News of the deal sent a tremor through the wrestling community, sending shares of TKO Group Holdings plunging. The deal averages a whopping $287 million per year, totaling a value of over $1.4 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Considering the intensity of the wrestling entertainment scene, the market for the deal seems “extremely active,” as per insiders.
SmackDown has had quite the journey, having previously been on Fox starting from October 2019 with a rights agreement for $205 million per year in a five-year deal. This new agreement sees about a 40% increase, proving once again that WWE’s grappling sales are nothing short of smackdown. The show last streamed on the USA Network from 2016 to 2019.
In early 2024, WWE merged with the UFC to form TKO Group Holdings, now trading on the NYSE. The marriage between companies, famous for their gripping fighting matches and one-of-a-kind promotive theatrics, has set the stage for premier wrestling content.
WWE will continue to drive high engagement on the Peacock platform, NBCU’s streaming service. WrestleMania 39 livestream in April led to a record-breaking usage weekend for the platform. With Friday nights on USA, primetime specials on NBC, WWE looks set to bring the hype in the wrestling entertainment space.
This partnership stands as an exciting testament to WWE’s consistent relationship with NBCUniversal, which takes us back decades. If there’s one thing we can always count on in the wild world of professional wrestling, it’s the strategic power plays made outside of the ring—and this one is undoubtedly prime time.