On July 22nd, 2022, Vince McMahon announced that he was retiring from World Wrestling Entertainment amid accusations of sexual misconduct.
In April 2022, the WWE board started an investigation regarding a $3 million hush-money settlement McMahon had to cover up an alleged affair with a former employee. The investigation revealed more hush-money arraignments that also involved John Laurinaitis, with the amount totaling $12 million. As a result of the investigation, McMahon stepped down as CEO and chairman of the WWE. Laurinaitis was relieved of his duties, as well.
In less than six months’ time, McMahon reversed course, citing that he was given bad advice. Instead of stepping down, McMahon allegedly believes that the whole situation would have blown over and he’d continue to run WWE. In recent days it has become apparent that McMahon is determined to regain control. It has been reported that McMahon may not sign off on important television rights deals coming up in the next year. Such actions would greatly harm the company as TV rights deals are a major source of revenue.
There has been speculation that if McMahon is not in control then the WWE would be up for sale. It is hard to fathom the WWE not being run by the McMahon family in some capacity. There have a few reported companies that could express interest. Let’s look at the likelihood of the reported companies acquiring World Wrestling Entertainment.
Netflix has not gotten into live sports, but the idea continues to be brought up. Their business model has mostly been in the form of renting television series and movies for a period of time and cycling through content. Of course, they have their own popular original series, but the WWE would be live programming each week. Without a significant change to the WWE business model, Netflix would have to take a chance on live sports programming. Is investing likely billions of dollars the direction to go in? There are certainly doubts. In this case, they wouldn’t be renting and thus not need to continually invest money.
Netflix has had wrestling on the service in recent years. Lucha Underground aired on Netflix, and the successful GLOW program aired exclusively on Netflix. It’s not an unrealistic thought for the most well-known wrestling product to be added in some form.
Should they own WWE they could venture out and provide unique documentaries that aren’t heavily favorable to WWE. WWE fans are frequently looking for an honest look at WWE history, and Netflix would be able to provide that point of view.
Amazon ventured into live sports when it purchased the rights to Thursday Night Football. They’ve also started to stream Major League Baseball games. Amazon Prime could be the home for the extensive WWE library that currently resides on Peacock. Recently Amazon spent nearly nine billion dollars on MGM and another fourteen billion on Whole Foods. Amazon isn’t afraid of investment. Their ability to turn around products through their Amazon Prime shipping service would also increase sales. There are positives for WWE to potentially go to Amazon, but the idea of WWE television behind a paywall and not on cable television would be an adjustment for viewers and potentially drive a dwindling audience away.
WWE television and library would be a good fit for the ESPN+ streaming service. UFC events are currently in the service, which could lead to a crossover if readily available under the same umbrella. WWE’s history of characters and nostalgia would be a great addition to the Disney catalog, as well. It would be unlikely that WWE programming would be on traditional cable networks. Would WWE fans be willing to pay for weekly programming? Another interesting note is that the XFL will be airing on ESPN and on ESPN+ in the spring. The XFL was previously owned by Vince McMahon.
They own NBCUniversal and currently have WWE’s library and premium live events on their own streaming service, Peacock. WWE RAW airs on the USA Network, and having ownership of the company would avoid having to increase a TV rights deal. Ever since the creation of RAW in 1993 WWE and USA Network have been synonyms with each other. Aside from a brief separation from 2000 to 2005, they’ve been a match made in heaven. USA Network has valued RAW over the years. RAW has oftentimes kept USA relevant amongst other networks with their consistent ratings. USA hasn’t had a lot of success with original content, but they’ve been able to count on WWE RAW to bring in viewership. Comcast is probably a front-runner.
SAUDI ARABIA PUBLIC INVESTMENT FUND
Yes, the same group started the controversial LIV golf league to compete against the PGA Tour. They have a reported $620 billion in assets to spend and acquire WWE if they wanted to. WWE fans have been against the company going to Saudi Arabia in recent years for their Crown Jewel events. Those events are essentially paid shows and are incredibly profitable. A sale to a controversial group may be something the WWE would like to avoid. However, if they provide the best bid it would be hard to imagine Vince McMahon passing on the most money possible.
Vince McMahon’s unexpected return to the WWE has caused an uncertain future. McMahon has always been a controversial person, and he’ll likely do whatever is best for him. We should expect the unexpected.