WWE RAW 25 + Media Rights?
“Monday Night Raw,” the flagship series of WWE will celebrate its 25th anniversary this week with a look back at its past heroes and storylines, but there are some big questions lingering about the company’s future.
WWE RAW is the longest-running weekly episodic television program in history and airs on the USA Network is set to air Monday, Jan. 22 amid speculation that WWE will pick up stakes and move to another network or even to one of the streaming services said to be kicking its tires — when the company’s contract with NBCUniversal comes up at the end of next year.
“It’s an exciting time,” says Triple H, WWE executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, when asked about the company’s many suitors. It’s rumoured that the interested parties include Fox, which never came to an agreement with UFC on a new television deal last year, leaving the MMA promotion free to negotiate elsewhere. Fox currently airs UFC programming across multiple stations.
With Fox being bought by Disney, WWE could make a great purchase as it would enable Fox to have Family friendly content that suits the Fox brand.
We are incredibly happy with our partnership with USA,” says Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s chief brand officer. “In terms of what the future might hold, I guess we’ll see, but we’ve been very, very happy and I hope NBC is happy as well.”
WWE RAW and WWE’s other televised show Smackdown live which airs every Tuesday on the USA network accounts for approximately a third of prime time viewership for USA, making it a key ingredient for the network. and an invaluable brand for any other network hoping to take on WWE.
“Certainly having a live, 52-week-a-year franchise is important,” says Chris McCumber, president of Entertainment Networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Live viewing, especially these days with a lot of time-shifting going on, allows you to have a pretty big platform, which has a halo effect across the entire network.”
“WWE’s audience is a real microcosm of all of America, and it really does a great job of bringing that audience into USA,” McCumber says. “It’s important to be able to have that symbiotic relationship between the audience and the rest of the schedule
WWE is currently partnering with Facebook on “Mixed Match Challenge,” a co-ed tag-team wrestling tournament that airs Tuesdays after “SmackDown Live” exclusively on Facebook Watch. Which could be a trial test for WWE potentially releasing weekly content on the platform.
“We leverage a content ecosystem, so at the moment, it is absolutely relevant and necessary to have [our content] on linear platforms,” she says. “It is still reaching a broad audience and it’s still our most profitable line of business. One piece doesn’t work without the other. Ultimately, would ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown’ go to the WWE Network? Maybe. But that’s certainly not where we are now.”
According to sources, both Amazon and Facebook have signalled interest in bidding for “Raw” and “SmackDown” media rights.