WWE and NBC Universal's negotiating window expired without a new TV deal for Raw, Smackdown, and other WWE programming, reports Variety. Now, WWE is free to negotiate with other conglomerates.
In a statement issued to Variety, WWE described their relationship with NBCU in the past-tense, despite NBCU having the opportunity to re-engage negotiations after WWE tests the open market.
“While we were unable to reach an agreement with NBCU during this period, we have certainly appreciated our long and productive partnership," WWE said before changing the tone to a passive-aggressive dig at NBCU. "With year-round, live programming that is highly coveted by programmers, distributors, and advertisers, we are extremely excited about our future. We look forward to engaging with potential partners who recognize the value of having the #1 show on cable and live content delivered 52 weeks a year.”
WWE is seeking two or three times the amount NBCU is paying annually, which is valued at $140-150 million. WWE executive Michelle Wilson said WWE will now find out what the market will bear.
“We’ve never been in this situation where we’re able to go into the marketplace with both ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown,’” said Wilson. “We’re going to let the marketplace decide the value of our programming.”
WWE's current deal with NBCU calls for Raw and Smackdown to continue airing on USA Network and Syfy, respectively, through September 30.
NBCU would like to see Raw remain on USA Network due to the guaranteed #1 ranking that Raw helps deliver for their flagship cable TV channel. However, NBCU is now owned by Comcast, which continues to re-organize the NBCU unit and recently announced intentions to buy Time Warner Cable.
Caldwell's Analysis: Now things get interesting. How much is Newscorp./Fox willing to pay? How about Viacom? Another player? WWE is clearly taking these negotiations seriously, as they believe they can get a lot more than their "friendly agreement" deal from NBCU.
I think they just may end up staying with NBCU after WWE fields any potential offers, but I am not entirely sure if anyone really wants to air wrestling these days outside NBCU and Viacom.