It’s official. Fox will be the new home of WWE SmackDown Live, the network announced Tuesday.
The new five-year agreement will commence Oct. 4, 2019, and will give Fox two hours of live event programming 52 weeks each year.
As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, the new deal is worth $205 million annually, and $1.025 billion over the life of the pact.
Also on Tuesday, NBC announced that is has closed a new five-year pact to keep the Monday night showcase Raw on USA Network. Sources previously told THR that deal is worth $265 million annually, a big premium over the current pact, which is worth about $150 million annually for both properties. Currently both programs air on NBCUniversal’s USA.
“At Fox we are thrilled to welcome WWE to the Fox Sports family and bring SmackDown Live to broadcast television,” said Eric Shanks, president and COO at Fox Sports. “We are huge fans and know that together Fox Sports will be the leader in live events for the foreseeable future.”
Added Vince McMahon, WWE chairman and CEO: “Fox and WWE are a perfect match. Moving SmackDown Live to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage Fox’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programming.”
The new agreement for Monday Night Raw also will commence in October 2019 and continues the wrestling federation and the network’s nearly three decade-long relationship.
It’s unclear how WWE will navigate future cross-promotional opportunities; having both programs on the same network is certainly advantageous from a marketing perspective.
As McMahon noted in his statement, Fox’s promise to cross-promote WWE across its sports rights portfolio including Major League Baseball and, next season, Thursday Night Football, was a big factor in the WWE executive’s decision to pact with Fox (though the NFL reserves the right to approve all marketing and advertising during its telecasts). NBCU sources say the company made a strategic decision to focus its efforts on Raw, which is a three-hour show and notches slightly higher ratings than SmackDown.
“Monday Night Raw and USA Network have dominated Monday nights during a truly historic run,” said Chris McCumber, president, entertainment networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Our partnership with WWE is one of the strongest and most successful in the business, and together we’ll take Raw to even greater heights.”
Added McMahon: “We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with NBCUniversal and USA Network. Monday Night Raw has been synonymous with USA Network and we are excited about what the future holds for WWE’s flagship program.”