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Details on WWE’s Recent Meeting with Fox, What Rupert Murdoch Told WWE Officials About NBCU & the Product

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The Hollywood Reporter has an in-depth look at the new WWE TV deals with NBCUniversal for RAW and with Fox for SmackDown. As noted, RAW will remain on the USA Network while SmackDown will begin airing on Friday nights on Fox in October 2019.

It was noted that the five-year deal for SmackDown is worth $1.025 billion while the RAW deal is worth $265 million per year.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were at a pitch meeting with Fox higher-ups on Thursday, May 17th in New York City. While they were entertaining other offers, NBCU was “fully expecting” to keep RAW and SmackDown on the NBCU networks with a new ten-year deal worth $360 million. However, Fox Networks Group Chairman & CEO Peter Rice knew that NBCU’s exclusive negotiating window lapsed at 4:59pm EST on May 16th and by the end of that May 17th meeting, WWE and Fox had agreed on the new five-year deal for SmackDown.

WWE was represented at the Fox meeting by Triple H, Stephanie, Co-President Michelle Wilson and Co-President George Barrios, as well as CAA’s Nick Khan and Alan Gold, a partner at the investment advisory that is part-owned by CAA. Fox was represented by 87 year old patriarch Rupert Murdoch, as well as Fox Sports executives Eric Shanks and Larry Jones. CEO Lachlan Murdoch joined the meeting by phone. The WWE reps first saw a large photo of Ronda Rousey lifting Triple H, from WrestleMania 34, on a big screen when they entered the meeting. That photo had the Fox Sports and FS1 logos superimposed on it, serving as an icebreaker for the negotiations that ran 2.5 hours.

The meeting was first arranged weeks earlier when Rice called Khan, who was representing WWE, and asked to meet immediately if NBCU decided to pass on renewing the SmackDown deal. NBCU had the right to match any offer of $200 million or less per year. Fox came to the table with $205 million but they were offering more than just cash. Rupert Murdoch told WWE officials that NBCU was “embarrassed by your product” and that Fox would fully embrace WWE with SmackDown promos airing across the Fox sports programming each night of the week, along with a weekly studio show on FS1. Furthermore, Lachlan Murdoch had a private call with Stephanie at the end of the meeting and told her that the deal would herald the marriage of the McMahons and the Murdochs, who The Hollywood Reporter called “rebel outsiders who had built media empires.”

The pitch meeting sealed the deal. WWE now has RAW and SmackDown valued at $2.35 billion over 5 years, a huge increase from the $130 million per year that NBCU is currently paying for both shows.

“We could not sell UFC” at Fox, a former staffer told The Hollywood Reporter. “And wrestling is family friendly. If you have wrestling you can find cash. I think it’s a big win for Fox; it’s a great trade-off.”

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