Wednesday December 6, 2023

Fox Opts For College Sports Over WWE Post-UFC Merger

  • Starting in October 2024, Fox will no longer air WWE's "SmackDown" on Friday nights.
  • The network has rights for college football and basketball that could fill the void.
Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
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Fox appears to be choosing live sports over scripted entertainment after ending its five-year, billion-dollar run with the WWE.

In October 2024, WWE’s Friday night showcase “SmackDown” will transition from Fox to USA Network under a reported five-year, $1.4 billion deal with NBCUniversal. Fox had reportedly been paying about $205 million a year for the rights. 

The move will leave Fox with a programming void on Friday nights — and college sports could be the network’s top choice to fill those primetime slots.

Along with CBS and NBC, Fox has Big Ten football rights in the fall thanks to the conference’s $7 billion deal with the network, although it’s unclear exactly how much Fox is paying. It also has Big 12 rights that it splits with ESPN for what will be $380 million a year. In the winter and early spring, Fox has Big East basketball rights, for which it is paying at least $40 million annually.

That would give Fox a full weekend slate of live sports from Friday night through Sunday evening, using a mix of college football, basketball, and the NFL from September into January. And that’s not to mention the network’s MLB rights, which include some of the playoffs and the entire World Series.

Wrestling For Rights

NBCU’s USA, which broadcast “SmackDown” before it moved to Fox in 2019, also has the rights to WWE’s “Raw” on Monday nights, as well as “NXT,” but could face competition to retain the former package. Disney is reportedly among the companies interested in acquiring some WWE rights.

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