After last week's look at WWE's relationship with Fox, we have some information on the USA Network aspect of the relationship with WWE.
With the WWE Draft looming, and talent not clued in too much, WWE sources did confirm to Fightful weeks ago that they were working with both Fox and USA Network directly to make sure all parties were satisfied with how the Draft ended up and where the stars landed.
While there has been much made of what network gets which stars, a WWE source compared the situation to NFL balancing all their broadcast partners. The specific comparison drawn was that ideally, every network would want Tom Brady, but they won't get him every week.
As far as the USA side of the WWE deal goes, contacts at USA did express counter-concerns so to speak to some at Fox being under the impression that their platform was used to promote Peacock so heavily. A source we spoke to at USA Network pointed to the Hell in a Cell matches that both aired on Fox and USA Network surrounding the PPV as a look at some of the posturing between networks, and WWE doing their best to work with both sides.
NXT was a point talked about heavily. Andrew Zarian of Mat Men, who collaborated with us on this story, noted that he'd heard that USA Network responded favorably to NXT 2.0 and many of the changes put forward. Another person that works at USA Network pointed out the massive jump in viewership for NXT 2.0, as well as the leap in production values being something that made the circles they were a part of very happy. Other positives mentioned by USA Network sources included the NXT 2.0 opening segment and match featuring Bron Breakker, the show-closing wedding, Diamond Mine, and the NXT Title match. The idea that USA Network doesn't keep tabs on what is going on was voided, as those we spoke with mentioned their familiarity with new champ Tommaso Ciampa.
In addition, USA Network sources we spoke to said that they were "elated" about the direction of NXT 2.0 specifically. When asked if there was concern over sponsor pushback, the sources were quick to note that many of their other programs have the same elements that wrestling do, and that it should be more accepted within sports entertainment.
In regards to the WWE relationship, the sources we spoke to connected to the USA Network brought up the fact that the company's relationships together extends well before many of the employees there were even born, but most are well versed in the long-term connection the two have. USA sources quickly dismissed the notion of "not caring" about the quality of the program, and said that they're well aware of viewership trends, and acknowledged the decline in viewership.
USA sources said that the declining viewership as compared to the start of the deal, when the competition hasn't waned to that degree is something that they'd like to see addressed, starting with the consistent quality of the show being better. The same source said that there were several at USA who grew tired of "scapegoats and shortcuts" in the two years before the pandemic, and wanted that to change now that live fans have returned. Among those included multiple drafts and shakeups in the same year, turning out the lights on the third hour of the show, brand switching rules such as the brand to brand invitational, Raw Underground, not running commercials during matches leading to restarts and two out of three falls matches, among other things. It should be
In discussing the relationship with WWE sources, it's evident that Stephanie McMahon has been a big steward of the connection between the two sides. Over the Summer, NBCUniversal Chairman Mark Lazarus personally invited Stephanie McMahon to join him for a 1-on-1 discussion with the Paley Center for Media, which was at the NBC Sports Studios. In addition, NBCUniversal Chairman of Global Advertising & Partnerships Linda Yaccarino discussed WrestleMania plans for both Dallas and Los Angeles while dining together in Manhattan recently.
Next week, we'll take a look at WWE and their relationships with streaming services -- their own, others, and Peacock.
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