It was recently announced that the WWE has signed a multi-year contract with Fox to bring WWE Smackdown to the television powerhouse, while WWE Raw will remain on the USA Network.
According to a report from the Sports Business Journal, a move was made by Fox representatives to pressure the WWE into using a different company during negotiations other than Ari Emanuel and WME-IMG, as Emanuel is one of the owners of the UFC. The alleged pressure from Fox caused the WWE to go with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for help with negotiations, as the CAA is a chief rival of Emanuel and WME-IMG.
“WWE’s negotiation period with NBCUniversal ran until mid-May 2018, but WWE executives started making the rounds well before that through a series of get-to-know-you meetings with various TV executives.
The networks, however, saw one big complication. Endeavor owns the UFC and the agency’s Emanuel is friends with the WWE’s Vince McMahon, who asked Emanuel to rep WWE during its media talks.
Networks didn’t feel comfortable negotiating with the same person for two competing sports properties. Executives at multiple networks viewed it as a clear conflict of interest and were not shy about pointing it out to WWE executives.
During a WWE event in Los Angeles in the spring of 2017, [Fox Sports president] Eric Shanks pulled Vince McMahon aside to make that point. Shortly thereafter, WWE hired one of Endeavor’s top rivals, CAA, to handle WWE’s media rights deal.
The fact that Fox pushed for the change annoyed Emanuel and offered another hint that Fox and the UFC would have trouble reaching a deal.”
The UFC was negotiating with Fox and other television stations at the same time to air their product, ultimately ending up on ESPN.
Going with the CAA was a good move in the end for the WWE, as the wrestling organization got a better deal that Fox wanted to give.
“Professional investors knew numbers given during presentations always were inflated and they discounted it anywhere from 15 to 25 percent. Even the discounted number, though, still was higher than Fox wanted to go.”
UFC will start airing on ESPN this January, while WWE Smackdown is coming to Fox in October of 2019.