WWE President Nick Khan revealed that the company has had internal discussions about making RAW a little edgier by adding more adult-oriented content during its third hour. During a presentation at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications Conference, Khan mentioned that among various other changes the company is considering to become more attractive to more potential broadcast partners, as WWE negotiates its broadcast rights deals for its weekly TV programs.
About the potential change, Khan noted that there are currently no concrete plans to do so, but it is under consideration.
“Most kids – certainly my kids – are supposed to be in bed by ten o’clock,” he noted. “So making it a little more adult-themed is something we’re discussing internally. Right now, 40% of our audience are women and 50% of the folks who attend our live events attend with someone under the age of 18. So we want to make sure we keep our base happy while we expand it. We think that’s an opportunity.”
While much of Khan’s discussion was a repeat of his comments from a similar conference that took place last week – indeed, some of his comments were verbatim duplication and the similarity in questions in wording and in order suggested that he had given the organizers the exact same playbook.
At today’s event, though, he didn’t discuss the Endeavor / UFC deal in as much depth as in the earlier one. He did reiterate that he is excited about the deal, and predicted that there will be benefits that maximize value for WWE’s shareholders, namely synergies in both cost savings and in revenue generation.
Much of his 34-minutes at today’s conference were focused on the negotiations for the US broadcast rights, which expire in October 2024. He noted that the company’s exclusive “incumbent” negotiating window with FOX for Smackdown has now closed and they can now meet with other suitors, but that the window with NBCU for RAW is still in effect. Khan said that WWE’s intent is, naturally, to obtain the highest price they can get for both properties, and ultimately that is what will help drive their ultimate decision.
“Conversations with both have gone phenomenally well. What we’re trying to balance here is getting the maximum value for what we consider these media rights to be. Five years ago, there was almost a 4X jump up in terms of the US media rights. We’re certainly not expecting something like that here, but we’re expecting something great. For us, we obviously have to make our shareholders happy – we need to maximize value.”
Khan said that the company currently has the momentum that puts them in a good position to negotiate at this time.
“In these deals,” he explained, “what you need to have is a little bit of momentum. What creates momentum? At WWE, we refer to it as the ‘three Rs: ratings, relevancy, and revenue.’” He noted that ratings are up across the board for their shows, including RAW being the USA Network’s highest-rated show. In terms of relevancy, he cited the example of the mainstream coverage received for Bad Bunny’s appearances and main-event match at Backlash, including coverage by media outlets that don’t normally cover WWE.
If WWE can maintain that momentum, he noted, it gives them some time that they don’t have to jump at the first offer.
“The rights aren’t up until October of 2024, sixteen months away. If we feel good about (a potential deal) and if the deal is right, and there’s an opportunity to close it this calendar year, we’ll do it. If not, and if we think if we continue to push it, it will mean more dollars – whatever we can do to maximize value for this content, we’re going to do it.”
While Khan believes that WWE is a also a good fit for the FOX network’s drive for more sports content, he noted that the unique nature of WWE distinguishes itself from other sports – and as a result, the company can be more flexible, allowing it more opportunities to work with other partners if it came down to it.
That could include longer shows, or even a change in nights.
“We’re still open to a third (hour) of Smackdown. FOX as it’s currently constituted has a two-hour prime-time, so that’s the deal that FOX wanted to do four, five years ago. If you look at what everybody’s doing at this point in time – Amazon in particular is looking to program nights of the week. We can go any night of the week. We can stay on Fridays for Smackdown, we can move off Monday’s for RAW.”
Furthering the potential for flexibility is the company’s third show, NXT Live. Khan said that there are a couple of avenues for that brand, including it moving away from being primarily a developmental brand.
“We think NXT has the viability to be its own stand-alone brand instead of being a developmental system,” he said. “Where you can see crossover of our Superstars from RAW and Smackdown to NXT, while our young talent develops there.”
Beyond that, he said the company will consider even more programming, including potentially adding new shows should there be demand from their fans and their TV partner.
“Once we get all of that situated,” he teased, “then we’ll look at other nights of the week to develop content there. As we talk through new nights of the week and new content, that is something we can do with an additional show.”