Nick Khan

WWE CEO Nick Khan has been in the professional wrestling world since 2020 but before that he was already a major player in the world of sports media, having launched ICM’s sports media department and heading CAA’s television department, where he negotiated media deals for some of the biggest names in the industry.

So while his thoughts on how WWE is navigating its upcoming media rights deals and a potential sale are front of mind, his opinions on the larger sports media landscape are usually worth consideration.

Khan made an appearance on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast on Wednesday and he had a lot to say about WWE, the NBA, the Pac-12, and more.

First up, Khan was asked whether or not there might be more consolidation ahead in terms of streaming services and major media conglomerates. While it might not happen for a few years, he thinks it’s definitely coming.

“I think everybody is sort of sitting around after the Discovery-Warner Brothers merger,” said Khan. “There’s a two-year lock-up on that in terms of selling off or doing anything with the Warner Brothers Discovery assets.

“That also times out, I don’t know, intentionally, unintentionally, with the next Presidential election. As you know, right now, tough to get big mergers and acquisitions through. There’s part of me that thinks, come late ’24, it depends who wins the election obviously, and what the feeling is in terms of M&A, but I’m looking at that as I don’t think [Warner Bros. Discovery CEO] David Zaslav’s done. I don’t think [Comcast CEO] Brian Roberts is done. I think they’re sitting back and waiting to see what could happen.

“I do believe there will be further consolidation.”

When asked what he thinks is going to happen with the Pac-12 and their upcoming media rights deal, Khan doesn’t think the odds are in their favor.

“I think they’re in a tough spot,” said Khan. “I have a lot of admiration for what the Big 12 did. So, assume, SEC, which I had the good fortune of being involved in their business in my prior life, we knew the SEC would be in great shape. We believed the Big Ten would be in great shape. They are.

“If you look at what [Big 12 Commissioner] Brett Yormark did with the Big 12 is he looked at the hand that he was dealt and he went and he did the best that he could with it. He got those deals done quickly. So part of what was attractive for the Pac-12 with Disney, in my opinion, was the tonnage. There’s a certain amount of tonnage of live events…that the MVPDs [Multichannel Video Programming Distributors] require. So assume they’re not just going to lose the Big Ten football games, but all of those college hoops games. So how do they go and make up for it? Do more with the Big 12. Very, very smart thinking by the Big 12.

“It feels like the Pac-12 got caught a little off-guard. I don’t love that in business. I wish them only the best. But when I saw, what we all saw two years ago, after the SEC did its monster deal, the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12, they’re gonna have some sort of alliance. I’ve never seen that work. Either you have to have a full merger, where everyone’s interest is the same, but the ‘Hey, we’re gonna be friends, we’re not gonna compete with each other while we’re competing against each other,’ I’ve never seen that work in any business.

“So, to me, they got caught off-guard, which is the worst thing that can happen in business. We had been hearing buzzing about USC leaving the Pac-12. Had not heard UCLA. And then, boom, lo and behold, both of those schools left. I didn’t love that I saw some complaining about it after by the Pac-12. Complaining is not a strategy. You better go and do something about it.

“We’ve seen this a little in golf early on with LIV. ‘People are loyal, disloyal. I don’t like what they’re doing.’ You better come up with a strategy better than that. And I think the PGA has and certainly they’ll try to implement it. But I hope the Pac-12 works out well but I’m not seeing it at this moment in time.”

Khan was asked what his advice would be to the Pac-12 in their negotiations and he felt like a short-term deal might be in their best interest at this point.

“I would go short-term and you gotta make sure you’re not just taking the biggest money,” said Khan. “You gotta make sure you keep attention on the schools. So if there’s a streamer that doesn’t have a big audience yet and you go exclusive with them, you gotta be a little careful of that. Because coming out of the deal, what’s the relevancy of your program?

“And again, love the streaming world, but on an exclusive basis for one conference or one league to do it, it’s still a big leap right now. So if they do it, it’s partly for the money. What’s the relevancy on that? Tricky.”

Regarding the upcoming NBA media rights negotiations, Khan agreed with Marchand on the idea that ESPN, Turner, and NBC are likely to be the major players, though for very different reasons.

“I do think ESPN wants that All-Star Weekend,” said Khan. “So if you look at it from a hospitality point of view, they don’t have the Super Bowl until ’27, the college football championship they have, but typically for hospitality it’s folks who went to those two schools. If you look at the [NBA] Finals, you can’t plan on it because you don’t know, obviously, who’s gonna be in it until the conference finals are done in the NBA.

“But that All-Star Weekend, I don’t want to say it’s similar to the X-Games, because it’s a far bigger property than the X-Games, but one of the reasons I feel Disney held onto the X-Games for so long is that was a great hospitality event for them. So, hey, come with your family, do all of these things, so I think it’s everything you said, Andrew, plus ESPN will pick up All-Star Weekend, which is meaningful for them for different reasons.

“I do see it laid out the way you do, maybe a tweak. I dunno if NBC and Turner are gonna compete for Tuesday nights or if Sunday is gonna be the opening for NC, but it’s basically the version of what you said in my mind.”

When pushed on the idea that hospitality is a driving force on media rights deals, Khan said it was “no question,” pointing to WWE’s upcoming WrestleMania event in Los Angeles and what that offers.

Speaking about his own company, which is preparing for a media rights negotiation of its own, Khan said that WWE is open to a model similar to ESPN’s UFC deal, which would be very different from what they currently have with NBCU/Peacock.

“We’re open. We’re open to conversations,” said Khan. “If NBCU came to us and said ‘We’ll take you from where you’re at now to 5x for Peacock but we need to charge an upcharge, we’d have to take a hard look at that. Most importantly we don’t want to price out our fans.”

[The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to