After its NFL Thursday night deal, 21st Century Fox isn’t done spending on sports rights and will reportedly shell out more than $1 billion on a five-year deal for WWE “SmackDown.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the deal is set to start up in 2019, and the $205 million per year that Fox is paying represents a tripling of what NBCUniversal was paying for the program.
The big programming deal for Fox arrives as the company is pursuing a $52.4 billion sale of its entertainment assets to Disney and reframing what’s left as New Fox. New Fox will consist of the Fox News Channel; Fox Business Network; Fox Broadcasting Company; Fox Sports; Fox Television Stations Group; and cable channels FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and Big Ten Network.
According to the Wrap, Fox will move “Smackdown” to Friday nights under its new deal. Fox has already locked up a new deal with the NFL for Thursday Night Football. Adding professional wrestling on Fridays would give the Fox broadcast network a heavy focus on sports entertainment in the fall.
According to the Hollywood Reporter story, WWE has more lucrative deals for “SmackDown” on the table, but part of the allure of Fox is a promise to heavily promote “SmackDown” across the network’s NFL and MLB programming.
“SmackDown” currently airs on Tuesday nights on USA Network, which is also home to WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.” Earlier reports suggested that NBCU’s new deal for “Raw” was too expensive for the company to keep “Smackdown” along with it.
“SmackDown” has aired on broadcast television in the past. The show first aired on UPN and then moved to the CW before moving to MyNetworkTV. The show moved to NBCU’s SyFy in 2010 before landing at USA Network.
Correction: A previous version of this article said "SmackDown" currently airs on Sunday nights. The program airs on Tuesday nights.