WWE’s “SmackDown” is officially set to return to USA Network in a new five-year rights deal.
The weekly show currently airs on Fox but will move to its new network home in October 2024 when the Fox deal expires. “Smackdown” originally began airing on Fox in 2019 as part of a five-year deal between the network and WWE. It had previously aired on USA Network from 2016-2019 and had a number of network homes before that, including Syfy, The CW, UPN, and MyNetworkTV.
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Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources say the new deal is worth roughly $1.4 billion, up from the $1 billion Fox paid in 2019. As part of the new deal for “Smackdown,” WWE will produce four primetime specials per year for NBC, marking the first time that WWE will air in primetime on the network. It is unknown at this time exactly what form those primetime specials will take, i.e. if they will feature live wrestling or if they will be more documentary-focused like WWE’s programming on A&E. According to an individual with knowledge of the deal, the exact nature of the specials is still being determined.
“NBCUniversal has been a tremendous partner of WWE for decades,” said WWE president Nick Khan. “We are excited to extend this longstanding relationship by bringing ‘SmackDown’ to USA Network on Friday nights and look forward to debuting multiple WWE special events annually on NBC.”
The rights deals for both “Smackdown” and “Monday Night Raw” were due to expire in the next year. While “Smackdown’s” future has been determined, there is no word yet on where “Raw” will land. It currently also airs on USA Network, as does WWE’s NXT. Sources say that there has been serious interest from a number of top platforms but no deal has been made at the time of this publishing. Neither of the other two shows is expected to continue to on USA Network, according to sources.
“It’s a privilege and thrill to continue NBCU’s decades-long partnership with WWE which has helped cement USA Network’s consistent position as the top-rated cable entertainment network in live viewership” said Frances Berwick, chairman of NBCUniversal Entertainment. “With Friday nights on USA, primetime specials on NBC, and the WWE hub on Peacock, we’ll continue to use the power of our portfolio to superserve this passionate fanbase.”
Since 2021, NBCUniversal’s Peacock has been the exclusive streaming home of the WWE Network. That includes the company’s expansive library of wrestling shows as well as the home for annual events like WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, Summer Slam, and more.
WWE was recently sold to Endeavor, which merged WWE with the UFC to form a new company dubbed TKO Group. Vince McMahon, former CEO of WWE, has assumed the role of executive chairman of TKO Group. Under the terms of the deal, McMahon — who was WWE’s controlling shareholder — will own 16.4% of the economic interests in TKO (and 16.4% of the voting power in the new entity). McMahon stepped down as WWE’s chief executive in 2022 amid an investigation by the company’s board into alleged hush-money payments to women who accused him of sexual misconduct. McMahon returned to the company in January 2023 as executive chairman to head up efforts to sell WWE.
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