As if this time of the year was not busy enough for WWE with the upcoming launch of the WWE Network on February 24th and their biggest annual event Wrestlemania on April 6th, according to a report this past weekend in the New York Post this week is the final period for the company to negotiate a new TV deal with NBC Universal. Technically the negotiation window between NBCU and WWE has already expired, NBCU has until this Friday February 14th to respond to WWE's latest offer.
A source that spoke to the Post says that if WWE and NBC Universal do not come to terms by the14th, WWE would then be allowed to begin taking offers from other TV companies like FOX and CBS/Viacom. A few weeks ago, the Post reported that NBC was looking into partnering with WWE to build a physical Hall of Fame to sweeten this TV deal the two sides were working on.
WWE who has had a long on and off relationship with NBCU, is reportedly not opposed to leaving NBCU for a competitor. Former WWE creative writer Court Baurer said last week recently on the Live Audio Wrestling podcast that the company had a “cup of coffee” with representatives from sports titan ESPN but the informal talk did not produce any momentum towards a deal.
This deal is a critical one as WWE is looking to greatly increase the rights fees for their TV content as other sports groups like NASCAR have done in recent TV deals. There is no public information on what WWE’s last TV deal was worth, but it has been widely reported that it was in the neighborhood of $140 million. Insiders are saying that WWE is hoping to get around double that number in this new potential deal.
When appearing at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in December, WWE’s Chief Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios noted that If WWE were to leave USA Network, USA would go from #1 in prime-time to #4 or #5, which gives WWE leverage. It’s safe to say WWE is shooting to come out the winner and increase the value of their content which company chairman Vince McMahon has always felt was undervalued
WWE’s ‘Monday Night RAW’ and ‘Friday Night Smackdown’ currently air on NBCU’s cable channels USA Network and SyFy. Reruns of these programs also run on NBC Universal HD. WWE has a longstanding TV relationship with NBC dating back to the 1980’s when ‘Saturday Nights Main Event’ help rocket the wrestling company into mainstream American pop culture. WWE TV shows including 'RAW' ran on Viacom's Spike TV from 2000 to 2005 but returned to NBCU's USA Network.
Pro Wrestling Examiner’s Perspective: The world of WWE is quite busy with a big name superstar walking out, a red hot superstar being pushed by the fans, and the Network launch on the horizon but this TV deal is the most critical and immediate issues for the company. This deal could literally reestablish the status of the brand of WWE in the entertainment world. If WWE comes out the winner here, they are not just ‘that wrestling show does well on cable’ anymore. If the company gets what they want in this TV deal, WWE would become a maverick force with the duality of delivering direct-to-consumer content through the WWE Network while being a staple with one of the biggest media companies in the world, NBC Universal. Now that is all a very big ‘if’ so only time will tell where this story goes.