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WWE Signs Two-Year Extension With USA

World Wrestling Entertainment, presenting the 15th anniversary of franchise series Monday Night Raw on Dec. 10, has cause to celebrate a few days earlier, as the grappling group extended its contract with USA Network for two more years, the channel’s parent NBC Universal announced.

Under the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, USA will continue to air Raw in the Monday  9-11 p.m. time slot, and A.M. Raw remains part of the “characters’ network’s  weekend line-up through 2010. In addition, WWE will supply broadcaster NBC with a pair of specials for late-night Saturday windows, while Telemundo and mun2 receive Spanish-language versions of Raw.

Sources familiar with the extension indicate that WWE pinned a license fee increase over the $31 million it is paid annually under the contract that expires at the end of 2008.

WWE declined to comment; USA officials didn’t return phone calls by press time.

USA and the other NBCU properties control and sell the advertising inventory in the WWE fare, which week in, week out, sits at or near the top of the basic-cable ratings heap.

The series, which aired on USA for seven years, moved to Spike TV in September 2000. Since its return to USA in October 2005, the weekly Monday Night Raw programming has averaged 5.1 million, including 2.6 million adults 18 to 49 and 2.3 million 25-to-54 watchers, according to the WWE. Those figures represent a 210% rise in total viewers, a 221% advance among the 18-to-49 set and a 187% gain with persons 25 to 54, compared to the previous time slot occupants, the wrestling organization said.