'WWE SmackDown' Moving to Fox's Lineup of Live Sports

"SmackDown" live event in Munich, May 15, 2018

"SmackDown" live event in Munich, May 15, 2018

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

The deal is nearly complete, according to a published report, and would have Fox paying nearly $1 billion over five years for SmackDown.

SmackDown currently airs on USA Network. NBCU, which declined to match Fox's offer, was paying substantially less under its agreement. WWE’s long running Raw owill continue to air on USA Network.

21st 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.

NBCU had 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 Lafayette

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.