Rapid Decline Of Television May Have Huge Impact WWE & AEW’s Upcoming TV Rights Deals

AEW WWE Logo Over Royal Rumble

The decline of television has led to some speculation that the next WWE and TV deals could be hurt by it.

It has been reported heavily that Vince McMahon is back as the Executive Chairman of WWE with the intention to sell WWE at some point in the next six months. That’s because WWE’s TV deals with Comcast/NBCU for Raw and Fox for Smackdown will expire in September. The WWE sale is likely going to happen in the first six months of 2023 unless WWE decides they don’t want to do it due to whatever offers they might receive.

There have also been reports that Vince’s daughter Stephanie McMahon and son-in-law Paul “Triple H” Levesque opposed the idea of WWE selling. However, Vince is the majority stockholder in the company and it would be difficult to try to stop him from doing what he wants.

What’s interesting about the potential WWE sale is there have been links to the number two wrestling company in America (and most of the world), AEW. While AEW reportedly has some interest in buying WWE, it seems unlikely that it is going to happen.

While writing in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (available via subscription), Dave Meltzer wrote about how the current television landscape could have a major impact on the next deals that WWE and AEW sign for their television shows.

“The entire economics of sports, as well as pro wrestling, have become more and more questionable because of the rapid decline this past year of television. This plays into a lot of timing issues, including the WWE sale and upcoming WWE and AEW rights fees negotiations. What had been a slow erosion of television when it came to people with access to the major cable stations, picked up greatly this past year. And while the NFL had a big year with viewership, as did other sports, and year-on-year figures for Raw, Smackdown and Dynamite were at the same level as the year before.”

“In the case of Dynamite, it’s misleading because the first half of the year was way up and the second half of the year was significantly down, although some of that is related to the big boost the second half of last year got with the signings of C.M. Punk, Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson. But still, it remains the strongest Wednesday night program except the NBA most weeks, and among non-sports remains one of the strongest properties on cable television. But the continual drop of homes getting USA, TNT and TBS will inevitably lead to some drop in viewership.”

“Even if wrestling holds steady, the stations themselves will not. With lower overall viewership of stations, and fewer homes, both ad sales will be down as will carriage fees, which are what the cable companies, way down in revenue, pay to the stations for the rights to air the shows. The move to streaming has a long way to go before being profitable. But wrestling, like all sports, had become completely reliant on television rights fees as their key source of income.”

“Both companies were also expecting big increases when the new deals would be negotiated because of how strong they are as compared to other programming. It may still happen for WWE with its brand name, and perhaps for AEW, but it is far less of a lock than it seemed a few months ago.”

WWE will air a live episode of Smackdown tonight at 8pm ET on Fox while AEW will air a taped episode of Rampage on TNT starting at 10pm ET, which is right after Smackdown.