WWE and NBC Universal wrestle over programming rights

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wwe rawThe biggest fight in the “WWE Universe” right now isn’t pitting John Cena against Randy Orton. It’s a battle with NBCUniversal over how much weekly wrestling programming is worth. NBC Universal doesn’t want to lose the guaranteed ratings draw of the WWE, but may not want to pay what the E is asking.

An exclusive negotiating window has ended without a deal in place. Reports have WWE seeking a substantial increase over the $140 million it got last time. It wants a deal similar to what sports leagues get for their rights. After all, it gets comparable ratings and airs 52 weeks a year.

NBCUniversal does have the right to match any offer.The rights currently include RAW, which airs on USA, and Smackdown, which airs on Syfy.

The company is reportedly considering giving WWE’s Hall of Fame a physical location at its Universal Studios theme park.

Other bidders might include Viacom, which airs TNA Impact on SpikeTV, and Turner Broadcasting. WCW was a mainstay of Turner’s schedule before WWE purchased it in 2001. Spike stepped in the last time these two companies had a falling out. It aired WWE wrestling for two years in the 1980s, until the shows returned to USA.

WWE is preparing to launch its own over-the-top network venture Feb. 24. Digital rights are probably one of the sticking points in this deal.

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