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WWE seeks rights bids as NBCU window ends

The WWE wrestling organisation is seeking bids for the broadcast rights to key properties such as Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown after its exclusive negotiating window with current rights-holder, US media company NBCUniversal, expired without the agreement of a new deal.

The exclusive window was available to NBCU through February 15, giving the company the opportunity to accept or reject WWE’s final offer.

WWE said in a statement: “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 recognise the value of having the No.1 show on cable and live content delivered 52 weeks a year.”

The Raw and SmackDown brands are currently broadcast by NBCU’s USA Network and Syfy cable television channels, which will continue to televise the shows through September 30. NBCU can still match any offer that WWE receives from rival broadcasters, with the wrestling organisation said to be seeking to significantly enhance the $139.5m (€101.8m) in television licensing fees it receives each year for its shows.

“We’ve never been in this situation where we’re able to go into the marketplace with both Raw and SmackDown,” Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer, said, according to the Variety newspaper. “We’re going to let the marketplace decide the value of our programming.”