A seismic shift is unfolding in the world of wrestling as WWE and AEW face a mounting challenge tied to their media rights negotiations, compounded by the decline of traditional cable TV.
WWE recently disclosed a noteworthy development, announcing that SmackDown is set to return to the USA Network in late 2024 as part of a five-year domestic media rights partnership.
Meanwhile, AEW’s partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, which has garnered considerable attention, is nearing its expiration in 2024. The “Collision” show on WBD is not only seen as a financial boost for AEW but an extension of their partnership.
Renowned wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer has delved into the complexity of the situation. On Wrestling Observer Radio, Meltzer offered insights into the broader implications, notably the recent news of Showtime discontinuing MMA, boxing, and sports content:
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“A Shifting Landscape”
“The big picture story is huge because what’s happening and is going to happen is… there’s only a finite number of stations that carry sports. For AEW, just an example, if something were to happen to WBD, Showtime would have been one of the suitors.”
Meltzer’s perspective shines a light on the significance of stations that may have shown interest in both WWE and AEW products:
“A Narrowing Field of Suitors”
“When AEW first started, the two people who were willing to jump on board with AEW, unseen as a product because of the success of All In – Tony Khan had a connection also obviously at TNT with Kevin Riley – and the other one was Showtime. Many of the people at Showtime were very aware of what was going on in pro-wrestling, and they thought, ‘Hey, this is a good thing to get involved in.'”
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This view underlines the missed opportunities for wrestling companies in an evolving landscape:
“Cable TV on the Decline”
Showtime’s decision to exit the sports business aligns with a broader trend: the dwindling allure of cable TV in favor of streaming platforms. It reflects the diminishing prominence of traditional television networks in the sports broadcasting arena.
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The announcement that Showtime would no longer feature boxing and MMA content emerged on October 17, 2023, through Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, with further details outlined in an internal memo published by USA Today’s MMA Junkie.
Bellator MMA, housed under the Showtime banner, may also face an uncertain future, as sources suggest a potential sale may be in the cards.
In essence, as WWE and AEW navigate the intricate world of media rights, they must contend with a limited pool of potential suitors while grappling with the transformative impact of the cable TV decline.
A significant upheaval is unfolding in the wrestling world as WWE and AEW grapple with media rights negotiations and the decline of traditional cable TV. WWE recently revealed its return to the USA Network in late 2024 as part of a five-year domestic media rights partnership. Meanwhile, AEW’s partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, which includes the “Collision” show, is set to expire in 2024.
Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer sheds light on the complex situation, emphasizing the limited number of stations that carry sports and the potential impact on both WWE and AEW. This evolving landscape is further marked by the decline of cable TV in favor of streaming platforms, as evidenced by Showtime’s recent decision to discontinue boxing, MMA, and sports content, reflecting a broader trend in the sports broadcasting arena. As WWE and AEW navigate media rights in this changing environment, they face a shrinking pool of potential partners and contend with the transformative effects of cable TV’s decline.