MEDIA: NBCUniversal, out to keep WWE, mulls Hall of Fame (NYPost.com)
Posted on 1/24/114 by Bob Magee
NBCUniversal, out to keep WWE, mulls Hall of FameBy Claire Atkinson
January 24, 2014 | 6:06am
NBCUniversal, looking to retain rights to WWE’s popular “Smackdown” and “Raw” programs on its SyFy and USA channels, is thinking about creating a Hall of Fame for the entertainment company at its Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, The Post has learned.
While no concrete offer has been made, NBCU brass, as they put together a final pitch to present to Vince McMahon’s WWE, have talked about such a deal sweetener, sources said.
NBCU’s exclusive negotiating period ends Feb. 1, sources said.
Meanwhile, rivals like Viacom, whose Spike channel carries TNA, a rival pro wrestling circuit, and Turner Broadcasting, are logical partners.
Both “Smackdown” and “Raw” are highly rated and the current $140 million-a-year deal is likely to rise substantially.
NBCU’s rights include USA Network’s three-hour primetime block “Monday Night Raw,” and Syfy channel’s Friday night, “Smackdown.”
WWE shows are also available on Hulu Plus and on small broadcast network ION.
Executives at the Stamford, Conn.-based WWE are believed to be asking for at least double the current rate, arguing that its scripted wrestling events are akin to live sports programming and that it is highly attractive to young men — and to Hispanics in particular.
NBCU does have matching rights should the exclusive window close without a deal, sources said.
WWE’s big ratings could be a boost for Turner Broadcasting’s TNT, for example.
WWE attracts high-paying, last-minute movie advertisers, autos and quick service restaurants given its large young male audience demographics, although it doesn’t command the same premium among advertisers as real sports, experts said.
“Raw,” drew around 5 million viewers last week.
Commentators have drawn comparison between WWE and Nascar. The race car circuit inked a $4.4 billion 10-year deal with NBCU last summer.
“[WWE is] unbelievably undervalued given the ratings, the demographics and their multi-cultural viewership — and it’s 52 weeks a year,” one source familiar with WWE told The Post.
“I would guess it stays where it is,” the source said.
The WWE franchise was created in part by NBCU cable boss Bonnie Hammer, who helped establish the series back in 1993.
It moved to Spike in 2003 and then came back to USA in 2005.
Meanwhile, shares of WWE hit a 52-week intraday high of $20.90 on Thursday. They closed at $20.75, up 1.8 percent.
The shares have run up 25 percent this year on expectations for a blockbuster pact with NBCU, owned by cable operator Comcast.
With WWE discussing the launch of its own Internet-delivered network which bypasses the cable companies, digital rights are likely to be a hotly contested aspect of the deal.
WWE, in a statement, said, “WWE is the hottest property on cable and a proven ratings juggernaut. However, we are in an exclusive negotiating window until the end of next week.”