Dave Meltzer had some interesting comments on Wrestling Observer Radio today regarding what he believes the future of WWE ownership could be, noting that it makes sense for a major network like FOX to purchase the company in order to make a long-term saving on television rights fees.
Referencing an article in Sportico that looked at the ownership of sports teams and properties by networks, Meltzer explained how ESPN had missed the boat in 2016 by not purchasing UFC for $4 billion when it was up for sale.
“ESPN should have bought them. Of course, ESPN didn’t know what the world was going to be like in 2020 and what the rights fees were going to come up to. If you think about this, they could have got UFC for $4 billion and they are spending $500 million a year on UFC to get the TV rights and to get the pay-per-view rights. In eight years, that’s $4 billion – so they’re spending the $4 billion over eight years with no ownership whatsoever. And they’re going to have to pay more, most likely – unless the world changes – to keep them. But if they owned them they wouldn’t ever have to worry about losing them and they don’t have to pay rights fees because they already own the property.”
Meltzer noted that the same logic can be applied to WWE, as both Raw and SmackDown command significant annual sums from the television stations they air on, meaning in the long run a network would save money by just purchasing the entire company outright.
“WWE rights fees are very very high. It really makes sense right now for FOX to buy WWE – or NBC Universal – because that way they don’t have to bid. Whichever one won would get both Raw and SmackDown and wouldn’t have to bid up every time – you’d own the darn thing. And for the price – if you’re talking about $470 million a year – I don’t know what it would cost to get WWE right now but a few years ago before these rights fees were up, you could have gotten WWE for $4 billion easily. Now I think it would probably cost a little more, but if you are looking at a five-year deal, you are paying $2.35 billion over five years, over ten years that’s $4.7 billion – and its probably gonna go up as well in 2024.
If you’re a FOX or an NBCU you can get both shows and everything – you can add shows, you can do whatever – and own the darn thing and it pays for itself probably in ten/eleven years. And you’ve got it for life. In the long run, think of all the money you save not having to pay rights fees. You’ll make the pay-per-view money, you’ll make the WWE Network money, you’ll make the international rights fees money, you’ll make the house show money. I feel like its the obvious future.”
Although the very idea of Vince McMahon selling WWE seems preposterous when you hear it, the reality might be somewhat different.
This is not the first time that the idea of a sale has been talked about and when quizzed on whether WWE is available for purchase, Vince McMahon always answers with “never say never”, suggesting there is a monetary figure that would convince him to sell the company.
In 2018 when WWE’s chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon was asked about the potential of major corporations such as Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon purchasing WWE, she replied, “We’ve certainly thought about it. It would be foolish not to.”
So although we should point out this is all merely food for thought at this stage, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility that when the next round of TV rights talks come up, FOX and NBCU opt to bid for WWE itself rather than its television properties.