WWE’s “SmackDown” is set to return to NBCUniversal’s USA Network with a staggering $1.4 billion deal. The news was recently announced by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon on Friday after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the network with the aim of securing the most lucrative deal ever for the professional wrestling juggernaut.
The ground-breaking agreement grants USA exclusive broadcast rights in the U.S. for SmackDown, and also has the potential for USA to sublicense some of the programming to a cable, satellite, or digital platform.
With the deal, SmackDown will move back to the USA Network after five years of airing on Fox – where it continues to be a ratings success.
The agreement effectively grants USA the right to televise thousands of hours of wrestling content, including live shows and historic bouts. USA has also committed to developing original programming around the new-look SmackDown, which will launch in 2021 with 21 weeks of new programming-Comcast will move SmackDown to one of its other networks during the summer of 2021 exclusively on the USA Network.
The huge deal will ensure SmackDown’s place on NBCUniversal’s USA Network for years to come, and will cement the network’s position as the home of WWE programming in the US.
What makes the new deal even more telling is that it was outpriced Fox, which had submitted a bid for SmackDown that was in around $1.2 billion – that alone suggests that the wrestling business is still strong, despite some reports claiming it to be on the decline in recent years.
Now, WWE will continue to be a major fixture on the USA Network with live weekly SmackDown programming. With this new deal, WWE’s global reach and appeal is sure to continue growing for years to come.