A year after Fox set a deal to take over broadcasts of its longtime pro wrestling staple, SmackDown, USA Network has gotten back in the ring with the WWE and will air its NXT show on Wednesday nights.
On its new network, starting September 18, NXT will air opposite TNT’s All Elite Wrestling showcase, setting up an old-school, basic-cable battle. USA also airs Monday Night Raw.
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NXT, which started in 2010 as the pro wrestling leader’s third franchise (after Raw and SmackDown) has driven 200 branded events around the world each year. Since 2015, NXT has aired on the WWE’s subscription streaming outlet, the WWE Network, and has been the top-performing show on the service, according to the WWE.
In a research note after the announcement, Guggenheim Securities analyst Curry Baker estimated the deal was worth about $30 million annually to the WWE for “one or two years,” citing conversations with the company. Baker has a “buy” rating on WWE shares, which entered the final hour of trading Thursday up 4% at nearly $75.
“The move to USA Network provides an opportunity to deepen our relationship with NBCUniversal and further build the NXT brand,” WWE chief Vince McMahon said. “Over the long term our goal is to develop a following that can be monetized to the same level as our flagship programs, Raw and SmackDown.”
USA and the WWE “have one of the longest and most successful partnerships in television history,” USA and SYFY president Chris McCumber said. “As the No. 1 cable entertainment network, we’re excited to add NXT to our weekly lineup alongside powerhouse flagship Raw, and to bring a new generation of superstars to a wide audience.”
NXT features a lot of rising WWE talent and elite athletes from the NFL, collegiate and amateur sports, MMA and international sports such as rugby, kushti and kabaddi. About 80% of Raw and SmackDown performers come through NXT. The roster includes Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Shayna Baszler, Johnny Gargano, Matt Riddle, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae, Tommaso Ciampa, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish.
At USA, NXT will continue to be held at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL, under a production partnership.