Fox Adding WWE Smackdown to Lineup of Live Sports

After making a stunning bid, Fox has pinned down the rights to air the WWE’s SmackDown series starting in the fall of 2019.

21 Century Fox has agreed to sell most of its television and movie studio assets and its entertainment cable networks to the Walt Disney Co.

What remains, called “New Fox,” including the Fox Broadcast network, is expected to be heavy on live news and sports. The network has already acquired the rights to air Thursday Night Football from the NFL. And working with the WWE would give the network three more hours of live programming on Friday nights.

According to a published report, the deal is nearly complete and would have Fox paying nearly $1 billion over five years for Smackdown.

NBCU, which declined to match the offer, was paying substantially less under its current agreement. NBCU will continue to air WWE’s long running Raw on USA Network.

NBCU featured its WWE programming during its upfront presentation last week, with star wrestlers including newcomer Ronda Rousey appearing in a ring on the stage at Radio City Music Hall.

In afternoon trading, shares of WWE Entertainment were up more than 1%

Fox and NBCU had no comment.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.