The WWE’s flagship program Monday Night Raw has been aired on USA Network for almost all of its 24-year run. It was created for USA in 1993 and returned in 2005 after a brief venture to TNN (which later became Spike TV during WWE’s stint on the network).
But according to one analyst at the investment firm BITG, it may be time for WWE to leave USA once again, when its current deal ends in 2019. This time, analyst Brandon Ross suggests, the sensible move is to Facebook.
“We believe WWE is being significantly underpaid in its current Raw / SmackDown deal,” BTIG analyst Brandon Ross wrote in the new report, which notes that the two shows generate a staggering 260 hours of original programming a year a big ratings for USA Network. Ross estimates that USA Network is presently paying $140 million a year for its WWE broadcast rights and speculates that a new deal with USA, Facebook or other potential tech suitors could fetch $400 million or more.
WWE signed its most recent deal with USA back in 2014, just after WWE Network launched. USA began to worry about the new property’s effect on ratings, and Ross suggests Raw is severely undervalued.
With Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon all experimenting with live sports streaming, this could be the perfect time for WWE (or any other organization) to start thinking about airing more programming online. Though the tech companies have rarely ponied up for exclusive rights, they have splurged on the NFL and MLB, and a popular property like Monday Night Raw could entice them enough to open their wallets.
Whether or not WWE winds up partnering with Facebook, Amazon, or Twitter, it’s clear that online streaming is becoming an increasingly feasible option for anyone in sports who needs a rights deal. From now on, cable networks seeking live content will have to contend with not just their fellow networks but also big-budget tech behemoths. Monday Night Raw streaming on Facebook may sound funny now, but it feels more feasible every day.