While no deal will be announced until late-April or early-May, WWE’s new television rights deal is coming into focus. The company has had discussions with Turner, Viacom, Fox, and AMC about their programming, according to a report from BusinessWeek.
If you consider those four entities, along with current rightsholder NBC Universal, as the favorites, the picture is becoming a little more clear. It does not look like a deal with ESPN will be happening, which seemed like the longest of longshots from the beginning. Similiarly, CBS isn’t involved at all either, meaning that CBS Sports Network will continue to flounder along with next to nothing in terms of attractive live rights.
Turner’s entrance surprised me – their family of networks, mainly TNT and TBS, last aired wrestling more then a decade ago, and the sale of WCW to WWE (then WWF) was mainly caused by the cancelation of WCW Monday Nitro on TNT. It would be a strange twist if WWE left NBC Universal to head over to Turner, a company with a rich wrestling history that eventually got smashed to bits by WWE’s programming.
I still don’t see how WWE programming would be a fit on Fox Sports 1 – Fox has too many rights deals that they’ve paid too much money for, and cramming five to eight hours a week of WWE programming simply wouldn’t work logistically unless programming is funneled to Fox Sports 2, which still doesn’t have national carriage.
Viacom is still the favorite, in my mind – they have a wrestling property with an expiring rights deal (TNA), plenty of time to fill on the schedule, a history with WWE, and they already have a bit of a sports background due to their history with the UFC and currently, Bellator. Imagine a two hour SmackDown on Friday night leading into a two hour Bellator fight card. That sure would spike the ratings of a Viacom-owned organization that has struggled when its cards lack stars.