News on the ESPN/WWE relationship and WWE/Peacock deal

Jan 25, 2021 - by Marc Middleton

ESPN has reportedly made the decision to stop airing all WWE content.

The new WWE Network – Peacock deal between WWE and NBCUniversal was discussed by Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez on the latest episode of Wrestling Observer Live this afternoon. It was noted that speculation on NBCU trying to acquire WWE SmackDown in the near future would be justified now that NBCU has signed the WWE Network for Peacock. NBCU also owns the USA Network, which currently airs WWE NXT and RAW. FOX currently airs SmackDown, and there are multiple years left on that deal.

It was noted that it would not be far-fetched to one day see NBCU try to get SmackDown on their roster, and then potentially approach WWE about selling the company to them because at that point they would have RAW, SmackDown, NXT and the WWE Network. Alvarez remarked that this new NBCU – WWE deal for Peacock is a good sign that Disney probably is not negotiating a sale of WWE right now.

Meltzer then indicated that there are issues between WWE and ESPN as it’s believed that ESPN was a significant part of the WWE Network talks before WWE decided on a deal with NBCU for Peacock. Disney is the parent company of ESPN, and there were rumors at one point of Disney/ESPN potentially being interest in buying WWE. Apparently ESPN found out three weeks ago that they were not getting the WWE Network deal. Meltzer then reported that ESPN has “pretty much shut down” any WWE coverage, and right now no more WWE content is to air on ESPN.

ESPN started airing classic WWE content back in 2020, and often covers significant stories for the company. ESPN launched a WWE subsite in 2016, but it looks like that site is no longer being regularly updated. It was also reported back in February 2020 that WWE and ESPN had talks about potentially moving WWE pay-per-view events to the ESPN+ platform.

On a related note, it was also reported that the WWE Network move to Peacock caught the WWE Network employees off-guard. Word is that WWE Network employees did not know about the actual move to Peacock as of one week ago, but it’s believed that the WWE Network negotiations go back to January of last year.

Peacock will become the new exclusive home of the WWE Network in the United States beginning on Thursday, March 18. You can click here for full details on the move. It’s been reported that the deal is worth more than $1 billion over 5 years.

Stay tuned for more.

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