WWE signed a huge deal with Fox for just over $1 billion for the next five years. This locked down SmackDown Live on Fox for half a decade and ensures that the company will be making bank in the process. However, there were other homes for WWE’s programming in consideration at the time including ESPN.
The Wrap recently spoke to ESPN head of programming Burke Magnus about why they passed on hosting the blue brand. Simply put, they didn’t seem to have room for WWE on their already packed schedule of programming.
“We did talk to WWE during their process some months ago. Took a hard look at it, we’re obviously big fans of them. We just went into business with them on the XFL indirectly.”
“We couldn’t find a fit for it, primarily based on schedule. As you know, those properties are 52 weeks a year live.”
“I’m proud to say we have a pretty good problem, which is that we can’t clear anything 52 weeks a year live. We have a pretty full portfolio of content as it is.”
He was also questioned about whether there was any thought of having SmackDown during an off-season because a full year of programming wasn’t possible. In the end, it just couldn’t work which meant that the two sides parted ways.
“Not specifically that, but we looked at all kinds of conversations to try and make it fit. It just didn’t work.”
“We parted ways and they got a good deal with their new partners, continuing at NBC(Universal’s USA Network) and adding Fox. So all’s well that ends well for them — but we gave it a good try.”
There is no off season in WWE. This is something that the company used to pride themselves on. However, now it might be turning into more of a burden.
There was still a lot of interest in WWE’s programming at the time which saw them sign two huge deals. One was with NBC Universal for Raw to remain on USA Network and another was with Fox for the blue brand. We can only imagine what kind of deals they would have been able to acquire if they had approached negotiations during this current ratings slump.