WWE reportedly has some lucrative deals already in place with NBCUniversal for “Monday Night Raw” and Fox for “SmackDown,” but the company may not be done yet.
BTIG analyst Brandon Ross thinks that WWE co-President George Barrios is taking a page out of the NFL’s book and is splitting up its rights to maximize value and exposure for his company’s entertainment assets. That includes digital rights that Ross said WWE is still working on carving out.
When reports surfaced that NBCU would relinquish its “SmackDown” rights but keep “Monday Night Raw,” both Amazon and Facebook surfaced as potential bidders for “SmackDown.” If digital rights are in play for the WWE’s weekly programs, similar to how the NFL sold streaming rights for Thursday Night Football to Amazon, then Ross thinks Facebook would be a good fit.
“We believe Facebook is the best place for these digital rights, as we have said for nearly a year,” wrote Ross in a research note. “WWE has built a passionate community around its content, and Facebook’s interactive Watch platform allows fans the differentiated opportunity to interact while consuming the content. This has been validated by the success of Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook.”
Of course, Amazon too could have some interactivity to offer through its Twitch platform. The company is offering its 11 Thursday night games on Twitch and could incorporate some of Twitch’s interactive features to increase engagement among NFL fans on the platform.
BTIG estimates that digital rights for “Raw” would fetch an average of $25 million per year over the next five years. Factoring that into the new linear distribution deals for “Raw” and “SmackDown,” BTIG estimates WWE will be pulling in an average of $500 million per year for the combined linear and digital rights to its two flagship programs.