As 21st Century Fox works to sell off a large percentage of its empire to Disney in a $52.4 billion deal, although a $60 billion offer looms from Comcast, the expectation is for Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch to further invest in live content with a focus on sports. That plan came to fruition on Monday as Fox nears an agreement with WWE to air SmackDown Live beginning in October 2019.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new deal is expected to be a five-year agreement totaling over $1 billion, almost three-times the amount NBCUniversal previously paid for the package. As the WWE agreement is being finalized, Fox’s UFC television package is set to expire at the end of this calendar year. The current contract had Fox paying the UFC $115 million annually.
The Endeavor owned MMA league was reportedly hoping for a new media rights deal in the realm of $400 million per year and they’re close to halfway there after inking $150 million annually from ESPN+. Late last year ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported Fox offered $200 million for a UFC television package, whether or not that included a digital agreement similar to what ESPN+ just received is unknown.
With Fox spending over $200 million a year on SmackDown almost immediately after ESPN+ agreed to a digital deal with the UFC, some view it as Fox replacing their previous UFC television package with WWE coverage. However, last month it was reported ESPN and Fox worked together to enter a joint bid for the UFC rights TV deal and ESPN+ acquiring a digital package could be viewed as part of a larger plan.
The WWE agreement also comes on the heels of Fox’s $3 billion deal for the rights to Thursday Night Football. With Fox clearly putting a premium on live content and sports broadcast deals, there remains a strong possibility the $1 billion spent to acquire WWE’s SmackDown will not deter them from negotiating a new deal with the UFC.
John Buccigross: Return Of NHL ‘Reenergized’ Me In ESPN Role
“I’m just grateful that I was able to get reenergized without leaving the company that I’ve worked for so long.”
John Buccigross is probably the most thankful out of anyone that the NHL returned to the ESPN airwaves this season.
Bucci has been at the network for 25 years and was a part of the coverage team the last time ESPN had NHL broadcast rights. He told Awful Announcing that the change after the 2003-04 season really helped change his focus at the network.
“It’s probably a good thing that it went away back in 2004, because I was able to focus on SportsCenter and kind of move up the ladder there, and maybe I never would have if hockey had stayed all these years,” he said. “Maybe that was good. And then I got involved with college hockey, I asked to do play-by-play a couple of years after we lost the NHL, so I’ve been doing college hockey for over 15 years with play-by-play, hoping we would get the NHL back and then I could do NHL play-by-play.”
Now the NHL is back, the Stanley Cup Final will air on ESPN and ABC, and John Buccigross will be a part of it in some fashion. He said having the chance to pick back up where he left off all those years ago gave him a second wind in his career.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me in my career, being at ESPN over 25 years,” he said. “To kind of get reenergized, reinvigorated with your job after being in the same place for 25 years, that’s probably pretty rare. I’m just grateful that I was able to get reenergized without leaving the company that I’ve worked for so long. At this stage of my career, it was just perfect timing.”
ESPN and Turner Sports replaced NBC Sports as the U.S. broadcast rightsholders for the NHL this season.
Mark Sanchez Emerges As Potential #2 NFL Analyst At FOX
“It is believed that Joe Davis will be the play-by-play man to sit opposite either Brees or Sanchez in the booth.”
Football season is 104 days away and FOX is still sorting out its broadcast crews for the upcoming season.
Enter former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez as one of the top candidates being considered for the number two booth at FOX this season.
Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported that if Drew Brees doesn’t end up in the role, Sanchez is next in line. Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt will comprise the top broadcast team for FOX this season.
It is believed that Joe Davis will be the play-by-play man to sit opposite either Brees or Sanchez in the booth. Marchand reported that Sanchez made a great impression on producers in auditions and tests.
Mark Sanchez began his broadcasting career three years ago. After two seasons of covering college football for ESPN, he made the move to FOX last year.
Joe Buck: ESPN Is Letting Us Set Tone For Monday Night Football
“It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
While Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be calling football games on Monday nights for ESPN instead of Sunday afternoons for FOX this year, fans shouldn’t expect the broadcasts to be that much different, if at all, than what they’ve been used to over the last 20 years.
Buck was recently a guest on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast and said that ESPN knows that he and Aikman have to be comfortable in order for Monday Night Football to be a success.
“I know we are in the honeymoon phase. I’m not dumb. That stuff wears off after a while. They are like ‘however you guys have always done a game, that’s the way we want you to do a game whether it’s with regard to meetings vs. conference calls or when you guys show up, how you like the booth set up. However you want it, we are going to do it your way’ and that’s to their credit. It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
Buck and Aikman are obviously already very familiar with each other. Buck said that it will be important not to take that for granted or second guess what they already know.
“I think the one thing Troy and I have to avoid is trying to be different than we’ve been. They hired us based on what we’ve done and who we are and how we relate to each other and the way we see a game,” said Buck.