With SmackDown moving to USA Network in October, conversations as to where WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW, will make its home continue. Could it be ESPN? JEZ Sports delves into the rumours.
The existing contracts for WWE’s Raw and SmackDown television programmes with NBC Universal and FOX, respectively, end in October 2024, therefore the company has been very busy negotiating new TV partnerships.
One of these fresh TV agreements has been signed. SmackDown will return to the USA Network on a five year deal starting in October 2024, as per WWE’s announcement today. It appears that the show will continue to air on Friday nights. The new agreement also calls for four NBC primetime specials each year. USA Network currently broadcasts Monday Night RAW and WWE NXT and, while the two shows will remain there through September 2024, where they will go after this date remains to be seen.
According to a report by Sports Business Journal, rumours suggest that while NBCU are still considered a front runner to remain the broadcast home of Monday Night RAW, both Amazon and Disney are very much in the running to pick up the rights. One of the sticking points in the new deal is, apparently, one or more of these entities desire for “A New Night for Monday Night RAW.”
Is RAW Moving to ESPN?
The rumour that Monday Night RAW could potentially be moving to another night as part of a new deal is particularly intriguing and evokes a range of emotional responses. On reading this rumour, my mind (as well as thousands of others, if you’ve been on social media today) immediately rallied against the idea of taking RAW away from Monday night, where it has been broadcast almost every week since 1993. It makes absolutely no sense to take the show away from the timeslot it’s called home for over 30 years.
Except, it really does make sense.
Consider the time of year. As week 3 of the 2023 season kicks off, we take a look back to this past Monday night – a night in which the NFL aired not one, but two, instances of their own staple broadcast, Monday Night Football. With sports fans tuning in to watch either the New Orleans Saints defeat the Carolina Panthers, or the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome the Cleveland Browns, live ratings for Monday Night RAW were decimated. Unsurprisingly, this is not a new phenomenon. In the past, television networks seemed happy to lose a portion of its audience for the NFL season; Not everyone who watches wrestling likes football and they’re happy to provide an alternative. So, why is it then that a new home for RAW, rumoured to be some kind of Disney entity, not be willing to do the same? Perhaps, because the new home of RAW is to be the current home of the juggernaut that’s been laying the SmackDown on it each autumn.
As far as I’m concerned, the only logical reason to break with 30 years of tradition and even consider moving WWE RAW from Monday nights is if the show is moving to ESPN.
If, as the evidence suggests, RAW is moving to ESPN, it makes sense that they do not wish to continue dividing their live viewing audience by broadcasting RAW and Monday Night Football at the same time. Furthermore, I don’t think Disney spend what is going to be a substantial sum on the rights to RAW only to relegate it to ESPN2 when it’s football season (not to mention ESPN2 is also already occupied on Mondays by an alternative commentary provided by Peyton and Eli Manning). Instead, the choice is simple. ESPN move RAW to another night and make it the centrepiece of that evenings offer, without thrusting the show into a battle that it couldn’t ever win, even if they wanted it to.
This, of course, is just my reaction to a rumour. The fact that WWE announced today that SmackDown would be moving under the NBCU umbrella without mention of the fate of RAW or NXT, however, is very telling. This suggests that it is more likely than not that one or both of these shows will move to new networks or streaming services of their own in October.
What do you think about RAW moving from Monday nights? Would you watch the show on ESPN? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.