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- Nick Khan spoke at the JPMorgan TMT conference today, talking with analyst David Karnovsky. He said WWE is still in the exclusive negotiating window for Raw with NBCU, but that the exclusive window with Fox for Smackdown has just ended. He mentioned the 3.6x increase in U.S. rights in the last cycle, saying, “We’re certainly not expecting something like that here, but we’re expecting something great.” He made the case for why Raw should get an upgrade from NBCU, saying, “If you look at the high sub fees USA [Network] continues to get, which it deserves, we think WWE is a big part of that.”
- Though it’s hard to imagine, he seemed to suggest there’s a way for WWE to end up with more than two U.S. media partners. “We followed the NBA’s playbook five years ago in wanting to not have one exclusive partner for Raw and Smackdown, and to split them, again, two ways. And now we’re looking at the marketplace in its totality and thinking there might be more options than even that.”
- On the length of the shows, he said, “Raw is three hours. We don’t anticipate that changing. But there’s internal conversations on the 10 to 11 hour… To make it a little more adult-themed is something we’re discussing internally.” And on Smackdown: “We’re still open to a third hour for Smackdown. Fox, as it’s currently constituted, is a two-hour primetime, so that’s the deal [a two-hour program] that Fox wanted to do four-five years ago.” He made clear that Raw or Smackdown could be moved to any night of the week. He noted again “Amazon wants to program different nights of the week.”
- Karnovsky asked how NXT plays into the rights deal and whether WWE is willing to be more experimental with distribution for that show. Khan said “I think we’re up 20% or so year-over-year,” referring to NXT TV ratings, which isn’t accurate. NXT is down 2% and down 3% in total viewership in Q1 and Q2 to date, respectively. NXT is up in P18-49 year-over-year, but not 20%. The show was up 5% in the demo in Q1 and is currently up 12% in Q2 to date. Raw and Smackdown are currently up about 20% each in P18-49 in Q2 to date.
- He said WWE’s former long-time UK media partner Sky was disappointed with the lack of televised events in the UK. Events like Money in the Bank in London and Clash at the Castle in Cardiff address that. He seemed to push Sky as well as current partner BT Sport as bidders for the next cycle for the UK, which I believe expires around December 2024.
- On recruiting, he explained the strategy behind attracting college athletes. He acknowledged that talent will continue to come out of independent wrestling. On their previous recruiting strategy, he said, “It was mining the independent wrestling territories to find the next great WWE superstar, so soon, that we mined a lot of that. And, yes, there will be stars that continue to come out of there.” He later added, “We pay our women as well as we do our men.”
- About site fees, Khan said WWE is currently in negotiations with a lot of international cities for future PLEs. “Our goal is each one of these premium live events should have some sort of subsidy. It’s going to take a while to get there.” WWE got site fees for Clash at the Castle in Cardiff, Backlash in Puerto Rico, and I believe Royal Rumble in San Antonio as well as Wrestlemania in Los Angeles. Audio of the entire talk is available in your subscriber podcast feed.
- The Tony Khan media call ahead of Double or Nothing will take place on Thursday at 2 pm ET. After the call ends, we’ll have audio in your subscriber podcast feed.
- Enlighted announced it will partner with WWE to provide energy-efficient services for the new WWE HQ
Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.
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