Wednesday News Update: The Next WWE TV Deal Could Lead to Live Smackdown
There was a big story on Variety.com by Marc Graser on Tuesday about the new WWE TV deal. Here are some excerpts from the story in quote boxes and my thoughts will be in regular font.
If USA Network wants to retain its biggest hit, “Monday Night Raw,” it’s gonna have to pay.
Next month, for the first time, WWE will shop the rights to “Raw” and all of its shows at the same time — a list of weekly series that includes Syfy’s “Friday Night SmackDown,” “Main Event” on ION Television, the CW’s “Saturday Morning Slam” and reality show “Total Divas” on E!
The goal is to significantly increase the $139.5 million in TV licensing fees WWE earns each year for its shows, and attempt to get closer to the rich network deals that sports organizations like the NBA, NHL NASCAR, as well as soccer command.
I think it's historically very significant that WWE would shop all their shows so that they end up on the same network or at least family of networks. It's a smart strategy because then there would be more cross promotion. Currently, the home of Raw (USA Network) and Smackdown (Syfy) are a part of the same family of networks in America under the NBC Universal brand, but I don't blame WWE for shopping the idea of moving everything to the highest bidder.
The company cites Nascar’s impressive dealmaking this summer as an example. The racing league secured a new 10-year deal with NBC and Fox worth $820 million a year. And that increase came in the face of declining ratings for many of its races. WWE argues that “Raw” and “SmackDown” alone are just as attractive, with a rabid fanbase that’s helped build networks, and its series are diverse in ethnicity and age.
Combined, the shows air 156 episodes a year that average a 2.2 household rating. Nascar airs 154 races and averages a 1.38 household rating among viewers, who are 92% white and over 50. WWE’s audience is far more diverse and broken out fairly evenly among age groups. A selling point is that 44% of them are under 34.
I didn't realize that NASCAR's viewing audience had that percentage of people over 50 years old. I've never really watched it in my life, but I can see why that is the case. Obviously WWE isn't going to jump from $139 million per year to $820 million, but if they can even double where they're at then that's a huge windfall for them. I think a number like $200 million or $250 million would be more realistic.
To make its show more attractive, WWE is considering a live version of its two-hour “SmackDown,” which currently is taped on Tuesday before its Friday airing. To do that, costs to produce the series would increase, due to scheduling, and the show would likely need to move to a new night. But WWE would be willing to make the switch in return for a better fee for the series.
That's is the big news to me. The average viewer doesn't care about how much money WWE makes for being TV. They care about things that affects them and that's the day of the shows. There's more in the Variety.com article if you want to take a look at it.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer/F4WOnline had this to say about it.
A key thing WWE is considering is an attempt to move Smackdown to a new night and go live. For reasons having to do with production schedule, the attempt would be to move the show to Tuesday, although the article never stated that. Such a move would likely increase the ratings of the show once the new night was established, since Friday is a tough night for television. Smackdown's ratings dropped significantly when being moved from Thursday to Friday.
If Smackdown went live on Tuesdays I have no doubt that more people would watch the show every week. I also think WWE would make the show feel more important than it currently is. It's not like Smackdown is a bad show. It's not. I just think a lot of fans skip it because they can read results on Wednesday morning and just skip it because it airs on Friday night. More people watch TV on Tuesdays. Results wouldn't be known. More fans are going to watch Smackdown that way. The negative is that as WWE viewers we would get a bit sick of programming because they would be getting 5 hours in 2 days, plus 3 hour PPVs on Sunday once per month or so. That's a lot of programming.
NBC Universal has until 2/15 to have exclusive negotiating rights. If they don't sign the deal by that time, WWE will take bids until 2/28 and make a decision based on those bids on 3/4. WWE would not move if there is a network change until October.
I really wonder what NBC Universal is going to do and how much they're willing to spend. Does WWE say no so they can listen to other offers? I'm intrigued by it. This will be a big story in the new year along with the launch of WWE Network. As a business, 2014 is shaping up to be one of the biggest years in WWE history when you factor in both of those deals plus the 30th edition of WrestleMania.
IN OTHER NEWS
- Former WWE Champion and WrestleMania 29 main eventer The Rock was announced as the top grossing actor of 2013 by Forbes. The biggest film, Fast & Furious 6, earned $789 million at the box office worldwide. His other films were G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Snitch and Pain & Gain. I didn't see any of them. It's nothing against him. None of them appealed to me. I also think I watched less movies in 2013 than any year of my life. No time. I'm too busy writing!
I have no idea how much money The Rock earned from WWE to wrestle three matches in 2013. I would guess around $10 million, but have no idea of knowing if that's accurate or not.
- AJ Styles is currently gone from TNA, but he may be negotiating a new deal according to Bryan Alvarez of F4WOnline. (WrestlingInc) I didn't expect him to stay gone for long since WWE unlikely has no interest due to his age and they never really pursued him before. He'd likely rather stay on TV in TNA than have to work indies every weekend.
There are probably other news stories out there, but I already covered a lot with the main one and it's 2am as I write this. So I'll bring it home with some nonsense.
- Happy birthday to WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus, who turns 38 years old today. She was once my favorite woman in the history of wrestling, but is now in third place. If you know me you know who my top two probably are. I always admired her not just because she had a permanent spot in my dreams in my early 20s. I also liked that she was a hard working fellow Canadian/Greek like me (real last name is Stratagias) and I always wanted her to do well. Did I mention she's ridiculously hot? Because she is.
I had two copies of that magazine. One at home and one at work because work was boring.
It's also the birthday of Rob Van Dam. I can't say he's an all-time favorite, but he's cool. I will try to tweet him at 4:20pm because it's an important time for him.
Steve Austin celebrates a birthday today too. Go listen to his podcast! I'll cut back on the birthday shoutouts. I just wanted to post a Trish pic, really.
Here's TJR Radio from last night with Matt Seagull, The Ace and myself. We talked about current storylines in WWE, some brief discussion about WWE TLC, the possible new TV deal that WWE is looking for in 2014 (some pros & cons of that) and we also discussed some You can listen to it via this link right here and there's an online player or you can download it to listen at your own leisure. You can also find it on iTunes at this link as well. I've also embedded it below.
I hope you enjoy the radio show as much as we enjoy doing it. The next one is on January 7th.
That's all for me. I'm back tomorrow with the 5th annual Johnny Awards column, which is my favorite of the year. I hope you enjoy it.