WWE To Shop 'Raw,' 'SmackDown'

Grappling Group's Exclusive Negotiating Window With NBCUniversal Ends

(UPDATED) The WWE will look to shop its popular Monday Night Raw and Smackdown franchises to other distributors as its exclusive negotiating window with NBCUniversal has closed without a renewal.

The WWE’s deal with USA Network to distribute the Monday Night Raw and Syfy for SmackDown series expires in September. according to WWE officials. The WWE has been negotiating exclusively with the NBCUniversal-owned series since January, but that window expired this past Saturday (Feb. 15).

WWE chief financial officer George Barrios called NBCUniversal a great partner and said it will continue to talk to the company about a deal extension, but added he’s looking forward to talking to other potential partners for Raw and SmackDown, as well as for its ION-distributed weekly series Main Event and its reality series Total Divas on E!

“We can now talk to everyone in the marketplace about all of our programming,” Barrios told Multichannel News. “It’s the first time that all WWE programming is available at the same time, and it’s a real opportunity for us."

USA Network officials would not comment on the matter.

USA has carried the live, three-hour Raw series since 2005, while SmackDown has aired on Syfy since 2010. Sources close to the situation said that NBCUniversal holds some matching deal rights, but specific details were unclear at press time. Neither the WWE nor NBCUniversal would comment on the matter.

The WWE will talk to both entertainment-based and sports-based networks that have broad distribution and a “mutual embrace” of the WWE brand, but Barrios said Raw and SmackDown will most likely not end up on the wrestling outfit’s new digital WWE Network service.  

Barrios added that he hopes to have a deal by the end of April or the beginning of May.

“We’re really focused on three things – economics, broad distribution and a strategic partnership with someone who has the same brand sensibility as we do,” he said.

The official WWE statement releaesd on Tuesday afternoon reads: "WWE’s exclusive negotiating period with NBCU for our flagship television programs, Raw and SmackDown, has now expired.  While we were unable to reach an agreement with NBCU during this period, we have certainly appreciated our long and productive partnership. With year-round, live programming that is highly coveted by programmers, distributors and advertisers, we are extremely excited about our future.  We look forward to engaging with potential partners who recognize the value of having the No. 1 show on cable and live content delivered 52 weeks a year.”