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Well, I didn’t know who was going to end up snagging the WWE’s television package of rights, but I knew the price was going to go up a ton because the WWE’s television content was woefully undervalued. I’ve been telling you this was likely to be the case for a couple of years now and I hope you listened to me and bought as much WWE stock as you could afford. (Honestly, I wish I’d bought more myself because I could sell today and pay off this beach house.)
Reports are that WWE Smackdown will be moving to Friday nights on the Fox broadcast network in October of 2019 for over $200 million a year, which means the big Fox primetime broadcast schedule will look like this every weekend during the fall of 2019:
Thursday: NFL Thursday Night Football
Friday: WWE Smackdown
Saturday: College Football with the Big Ten, Pac 12, and Big 12
Sunday: NFL Football (afternoons, but still, massive audiences)
Plus, the World Series if kind of a big deal too and will air on multiple nights during the fall as well.
Are you noticing a trend here? Fox is betting big on sports programming in primetime. And when you consider the potential sell of Fox assets to either Disney or Comcast this makes a ton of sense. Why? Because when it sells the movie and TV studio assets to Disney or Comcast Fox won’t have the same assets or resources to pump into scripted television programming.
So how to you combat that? Particularly in today’s incredibly competitive television market?
By going with original, live sports programming. (And other live programming to come, I would imagine). That’s what Fox Sports already does well — the NFL, the World Series, the World Cup, major college football, Fox is used to producing live programming for massive audiences on television.
So why not do more of it?
This live programming strategy makes even more sense when you consider that broadcast television faces an uncertain future. If Netflix, Amazon and Apple are all spending billions on original, scripted television shows, what does that leave that produces massive audiences on broadcast?
Witness this chart of the twenty most watched television shows this year:
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 21, 2018
Sports are the only thing today that cuts through the noise and produces consistently huge audiences. If you look at this list above, the top twenty audiences are almost exclusively sports. (Particularly if you realize the audience for “This Is Us,” was because the show aired immediately after the Super Bowl.)
For all the criticism that football has come in for, look at how football dominates this country’s ratings. Of the 14 top broadcasts this year, 11 of them are football games or shows that aired immediately after the Super Bowl. The only three additional shows are the State of the Union and the Royal Wedding, both of which aired on multiple networks, and the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
The worst thing about this programming is that you don’t actually own the content, you just rent it. But the best thing about the programming is it promises consistent live audiences to sell to advertisers.
Plus, the WWE creates its own scripted stars. So Ronda Rousey in the WWE is better than Ronda Rousey in the UFC because Ronda Rousey only loses in the WWE if it’s good for wrestling. There is no Holly Holm to show up and ruin Rousey’s future value.
As if that weren’t enough, as I wrote last week — the WWE’s Raw programming beat the NBA Playoffs in Round One. Can you imagine what the WWE will be able to produce airing on Friday night on broadcast television in primetime? I think this will be a massive success for the WWE and the success of Smackdown on Fox will serve to benefit NBC’s broadcast of WWE Raw and all the main event programming on pay-per-view on the WWE’s own network.
It’s a master stroke for Vince McMahon, a walk off moon shot that allows him to focus on the XFL content that WWE is set for years and years to come.
But the biggest story here is I think this shows you what Fox’s strategy is going to be whenever the merger with Disney or Comcast is complete, go live with sports.
Which, given the news that NASCAR is up for sale, could raise an interesting question — could Fox buy NASCAR and try to create a new television package of NASCAR rights to pair with the above rights they already have?
Stay tuned, it could make a ton of sense.
In the meantime, I hope you listened to me and bought WWE stock. Hell, I wish I’d listened to me and bought even more than I already did.
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