This past November, the Sports Business Journal reported that Fox had met with WWE officials in the summer of 2017 to discuss WWE’s television rights for RAW and SmackDown. The SBJ also reported that Disney, CBS, Amazon, and YouTube all met with WWE over the course of last summer regarding said television rights, as well. WWE’s current deal with NBC Universal to air RAW and SmackDown on the USA Network runs through September 2019, with the company making around $173 million in 2017 from the deal.
In The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer added to the story saying Fox has interest in buying not just the television rights, but the rights to the entire company for the right price. However, this all depends upon on-going negotiations between Fox and UFC, the former offering the latter a television deal on the Fox family of networks for around $200 million.
An interesting part of this rumored negotiation talk is the report that if Fox acquired the television rights to RAW and SmackDown, not only would RAW be on network television available to millions of American homes on Monday nights (while SmackDown would be relegated to the satellite channel Fox Sports 1), but that the broadcast would assumedly be shortened back to two hours (8-10 EST) due to many Fox affiliates having a nightly newscast at 10 p.m. local time.
This rumor has led me to reiterate a point I’ve held for quite some time (as I’m sure many fans have as well) that WWE should really take into consideration with their own television rights negotiations between now and September of next year when their current deal expires: In any event, no matter which brand or company or property inherits the television rights or to the company itself, WWE should attempt to cut back RAW to only two hours as it was pre-2012.
Three-hour RAWs were established during the RAW “Supershow” era when RAW and SmackDown superstars could appear on the red brand while the idea of a separate “brand split” was a relic of the Ruthless Aggression era. Now that the brand split has taken over once again, the three-hour RAW has half of the superstars it once had available to put on a show. Now it seems like RAW has at least one segment a show that has to be stretched out as far as possible in order to get the show to cross the 11 p.m. EST finish line.