WWE has reached an agreement in principle with Fox to allow the network to broadcast it’s popular SmackDown Live events, starting in 2019.
The network switch will not occur until October 2019 due to WWE’s current contract with NBC Universal. NBC Universal’s contract currently calls for them to air WWE’s Raw and SmackDown on the USA Network until Sept. 30, 2019.
Fox had always been rumored to be interested in the rights to both of the WWE’s popular television programs. That would lead to them offering WWE to air Raw on the main Fox broadcast channel and SmackDown on FS1 according to Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer newsletter in January.
Although the deal is only for the rights to air SmackDown, it is still possible Fox could also acquire the rights to Raw in the future. However, it may be unlikely as NBC has expressed that it is not interested in giving up the rights to WWE’s top-rated show.
According to reports, the deal is for five years and holds a massive price tag of $1 billion. The huge deal has therefore led to a surprise climb in stock for the WWE. As of 2 p.m. ET, WWE stock was up more than 12% from its opening price, trading at $57.75. In all, WWE stock has shot up almost 90% year to date and 194% in the past 12 months. 21st Century Fox shares are also up almost 10% this year, and up 38% in the past year, most likely due to its agreements to air Thursday Night Football.
WWE also continues its effort to make the brand more mainstream by partnering with Fox, as it is also a positive move for the wrestling company as a brand. With recognizable stars Brock Lesnar and newly signed Ronda Rousey, Fox should bring a wider audience to them and the WWE.