WWE and NBCUniversal inked a five-year deal to snatch “Friday Night Smackdown” from Fox and bring it back to the USA Network starting in October 2024.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but CNBC reported that the rights deal totaled over $1.4 billion, an average of $287 million per year, citing people familiar with the matter. That’s a roughly 40% jump from the $205-million-per-year pact with Fox.
Investors appeared disappointed. Shares of TKO dropped sharply in Thursday morning trading, giving up $15.18, or 15%, to $85.69. the stock has traded as high as $106.16 earlier this week.
WWE is a ratings winner, with “Smackdown” a frequent No. 1 for the 18-49 advertising demographic.
“NBCUniversal has been a tremendous partner of WWE for decades,” said WWE President Nick Khan in a statement. “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.”
“WWE Monday Night Raw,” the top-rated program that is already broadcast on USA Network on Monday, is not part of the deal. “Raw” and “WWE Next” will continue on USA through September 2024, the company said.
WWE fans can also see live events like “WrestleMania” and archived shows on NBCU’s Peacock .
It’s the first major deal since TKO Group was formed from Endeavor Group’s UFC and the former World Wrestling Entertainment. The deal valued UFC at $12.1 billion and WWE at $9.3 billion.
Endeavor Group shares were also down Thursday, giving up 9.4% to $20.27 as the broader markets slid into the red.
Fox Corp. shares edged up 1.9% to $29.26, but were likely driven by the news that founder Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as chairman of both Fox and News Corp.
“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, 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 super-serve this passionate fanbase.”