WWE stock rose on Monday as reports surfaced that Fox had closed in on a massive five-year, $1 billion deal for the sports-entertainment company’s “SmackDown” franchise.
As of 2 p.m. ET, WWE stock was up more than 12% from its opening price, trading at $57.75.
ESPN on Monday first reported that Fox was near a deal to secure broadcast rights to “SmackDown,” which currently airs Tuesday nights on NBCUniversal’s USA Network. ESPN did not cite numbers, but described Fox’s offer for “SmackDown” as “massive.”
NBCUniversal currently holds television rights to the WWE’s two main franchises — “Raw,” which airs Monday nights on USA, and “SmackDown.” Fox and NBCUniversal had been pursuing competitive bids for both, with sources telling Variety that Fox had hoped to put “Raw” on Fox Broadcasting and “SmackDown” on cable channel Fox Sports 1. A report last week in the Hollywood Reporter indicated that NBCUniversal had shifted the focus of its bid to retaining “Raw,” freeing up Fox to pursue a deal for “SmackDown.”
It is unknown whether, under the proposed deals, “Raw” would continue to air on USA, or “SmackDown” would air on FBC or Fox Sports 1.
Fox declined to comment.
Should “SmackDown” move to Fox, it would mark the show’s sixth network home since 1999. “SmackDown” launched on the now-defunct UPN in 1999 before moving to The CW in 2006. It then aired on Fox’s MyNetworkTV starting in 2008 before moving to Syfy in 2010. It joined “Raw” on USA in 2016, with “SmackDown” also moving to a live format at that time.
“SmackDown” would also add to the burgeoning sports lineup on the so-called “New Fox” once the merger between 21st Century Fox and Disney is complete. In addition to the recently signed a five-year deal with the NFL to air “Thursday Night Football,” Fox is planning to split the UFC television rights with ESPN.
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