WWE Smackdown Moves to Fox in Massive Deal

WWE's blue brand is headed back to network television while Raw remains with NBC ...

WWE’s SmackDown Live is reportedly headed back to network television. As first reported on Monday morning by ESPN, WWE and the Fox Network have agreed to terms on a five-year deal that will pay WWE more than $1 billion. Fox will reportedly move SmackDown Live to Friday nights on the Fox Network, and not Fox Sports 1 or any of its sports-only affiliates.

Last week, NBC Universal declined its right of first refusal on a new deal for SmackDown, instead focusing its efforts on retaining Monday Night Raw.

WWE will receive $205 million per year for SmackDown Live. The deal will begin in October of 2019. According to THR, the $205 million figure is three times what NBC Universal currently pays for SmackDown, which it is airing live on Tuesday nights.

Despite coming to terms with Fox, WWE reportedly had an offer with an even higher dollar amount from a third, unknown, network. What put Fox over the edge, despite the lesser dollar figure, was the network’s ability to co-promote the WWE product with its NFL and Major League Baseball broadcasts. Fox is paying the NFL $3 billion for Thursday Night Football, which would heavily advertise SmackDown if the network plans to air the WWE show the following night on the same network.

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Fox is also still negotiating with the UFC, and reportedly has offered up to $175 million per year for television rights, which would be less than WWE’s paycheck but UFC would also, theoretically, run less events on the network.

This won’t be the first time SmackDown airs on network television. The show debuted in 1999 on UPN, and has since also aired on the CW Network and MyNetwork TV.

At one point, Fox was after both Raw and SmackDown, offering WWE the chance to air Raw on the Fox Network and SmackDown on its Fox Sports 1 sports-only cable network, but NBC Universal has the right of first refusal to keep the show on its networks.