Notes on the WWE/FOX relationship
WWE and FOX officials have reportedly held several high-level meetings in recent months.
It was reported today by Fightful Select how WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon and WWE President & Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan met with FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks and FS Head of Production Brad Zager the night before SummerSlam back in August. It was noted that a dinner between the two sides at the Wynn in Las Vegas reportedly lasted around four hours, and was said to be productive from WWE’s end.
McMahon and Khan reportedly decided on another move to further appease FOX management as there was an episode of RAW that had been discussed for the Staples Center in Los Angeles and with FOX Sports being based out of LA, Khan and McMahon reportedly quickly killed the idea and made the decision to instead have the first post-pandemic delay show in Los Angeles be an episode of SmackDown on FOX, scheduled for December 10. WWE will likely confirm that event soon.
With WWE being two years into their mega five-year deal with FOX, and still going strong, Fightful was told back in the summer that the relationship between the two sides was strained. A FOX source admitted that WWE viewership was disappointing in comparison to expectations, but they were quick to note that due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still hard to gauge where those numbers would level out, and that it was impossible to predict what happened in 2020 at the time the deal was reached, or when the series began on FOX. While the disappointing numbers were discussed, both FOX and WWE have pointed to how they have the most-watched wrestling TV show in the world.
The same FOX source noted how hearing about FOX owner Rupert Murdoch likely being portrayed in a less-than-flattering way in the upcoming scripted Vince McMahon series (The United States of America vs. Vince McMahon) was a “childish move” that will not help the relationship between the two companies at all. Murdoch personally met with Stephanie, WWE’s Executive Vice President of Global Talent Strategy & Development Triple H and other WWE executives in May 2018, and said FOX would welcome them as they were after it was said USA Network was embarrassed and ashamed of WWE programming.
It was noted that Vince has had at least one conversation with Rupert in recent months, but that subject reportedly was not broached. Sources in WWE noted that the concern has not been raised to them, and that the relationship between the McMahon and Murdoch families is “one of great respect.”
It was reported earlier this summer how FOX officials were not happy with SmackDown constantly being used to promote WWE events on NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform as this is a competitor to their own streaming service. Fightful notes how another FOX source responded to general concerns and acknowledged that the network has not been “over the moon” about constantly promoting another network’s streaming service with WWE’s pay-per-view events airing on Peacock, but WWE and FOX sources have insisted that there has been no issue there.
FOX and WWE pointed to the fact that WWE names were heavily promoted on FOX, FOX Sports and other broadcasts to build up to SummerSlam, which are prime programming real estate for FOX. It was noted how WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon appeared on FOX News program FOX & Friends, while RAW Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair appeared on FS1’s The Herd. A WWE source indicated that if there were those at FOX that wanted the pay-per-view content, they could have paid the premium fee that Peacock did.
It was also noted that FOX sources have said in recent months how they felt like WWE made the effort to go above & beyond to stack the roster since fans have returned to live events.
Stay tuned for more.