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By Mike Johnson on 2021-08-06 10:00:00


I have a lot of questions about WWE and FOX.  

1 - When they announced the deal in 2018, WWE personalities were all over FOX shows, they had the WWE Backstage show, there was all this synergy and now, there’s really nothing except for a podcast.  I get the pandemic happened but really, it seems like it’s gone cold except for Smackdown replays in the middle of the night on FS1, 2,  etc.  Did I miss something?

No, you aren’t alone in noticing that.  As Dave Scherer and I have discussed in recent weeks on The We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Name Show in our Elite section, there’s been talk in the FOX circles about some unhappiness with WWE.  Some sources have pointed to the idea that Smackdown is a FOX property that FOX is paying basically around a billion dollars over five years for but that show ends up streaming on Peacock, an NBCUniversal property now that they have licensed the WWE Network.  Beyond that, all the PPVs being built on Smackdown have storylines that culminate on Peacock as well, which effectively means a FOX show that FOX pays for is pushing people to a NBC Universal property.  That’s probably at least part of the reason why we saw the Roman Reigns-Rey Mysterio Hell In A Cell bout shifted over to Smackdown.    We is trying to serve two TV masters at the same time, so there's going to be a pull from each side.

As you mentioned, a lot of the ancillary programming disappeared and so did a lot of FOX’s promotion for WWE and Smackdown.  I just checked and the last time FOX Sports issued a press release for something WWE related was this past March and previously, it was January.  Certainly if FOX wanted WWE to produce something out of their virtual studio for them, you’d think WWE would jump right on that - that’s common sense.  Certainly there’s a big difference from how FOX was pushing the property when they first signed their agreement, for sure.  Part of that, however, was the pandemic.  Whether they ramp up more, I don't know.

2 - I remember there were job ads for people working for FOX out of the West Coast on WWE content.  Did that die off as well?  There’s really nothing except for a Twitter account and a YouTube channel.

I haven’t heard of anything in that regard but I don’t get the impression there’s a massive team at FOX working on WWE.

3 - There’s been a big push for FOX Sports content launching soon on their streaming service TUBI.TV - since WWE is a partner there, is there going to be any wrestling content when this stuff launches?  Will Smackdown be there?  Could WWE just do a hard brand split and do Smackdown PPVs there?

I have seen the same Tubi push that you have of late and there was recently an Erin Andrews interview here in NYC where she was talking up all the FOX properties and there was zero mention of WWE.  My guess is that the Peacock deal would prevent WWE from taking part in having any original programming on Tubi.  My guess is also that Smackdown would not be there.  We reached out a few days ago to WWE to ask if they would have any content on Tubi, which FOX is obviously preparing to ramp up, but as of this writing, have not heard anything back.

There’s no way WWE is doing a hard split and having Smackdown exclusive PPVs on Tubi or whatever other FOX Sports streaming platforms will be rolling out.  They’ve sold the rights to that content to NBC Universal, so now if they turn around and move half the talent to another streaming service, NBC could and should point out that’s not what they paid WWE millions upon millions for.  It could get real dicey real quick legally, so I just don’t see that happening.

4- With Summerslam weekend coming up, is there anything planned for FOX Sports and what’s really going to be the “actual” Wrestlemania this year?  They didn’t do anything programming-wise for Mania in Tampa.  It’s like they forgot they have a WWE deal.

I just checked the FOX Sports schedule for the next several weeks and while they could always add something, the only WWE content listed was, as you mentioned, Smackdown replays.  So, it does not appear they will be doing any special programming from Vegas.  I don’t think FOX forgot.  I think it’s that they specifically have chosen not to do anything on their networks.  Why that may be is certainly up to conjecture.

5 - Has there been any talk about FOX being unhappy with the ratings for Smackdown?

I am sure everyone wants their numbers to be higher, but with the pandemic, it’s uncharted waters.  I haven’t heard about FOX being down on their numbers for Smackdown, as SD does far better than what was previously airing in the slot.  But, we hear far more rumblings from FOX sources about Peacock being a bone of contention than we do about Friday Night Smackdown numbers.

6 - Am I being a conspiracy theorist in thinking the FOX-WWE deal going to be a one and done?

I think it’s too soon to predict anything.  The pandemic threw the entire world into a frenzy and we have no idea what the world will look like when it comes time for WWE and FOX to potentially negotiate another five year deal.  I wouldn’t bet the house either way, but certainly, this is all something to keep an eye on, especially as some feel WWE is preparing itself for a sale and their relationship with NBCU gets cozier and cozier.

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