FOX and WWE reportedly strained relationship with SmackDown audience falling below expectations


Fightful reports that there was talk in July of a strained relationship between WWE and FOX.

A source admitted to Fightful that FOX was disappointed with WWE’s audience for what they expected when they struck the deal to bring them to the network. When FOX first struck a deal with WWE, Dave Meltzer reported at the time that the network was expecting some 3.3 million viewers. WWE drew 3.9 million viewers for its debut show featuring The Rock, but they haven’t come close to that since then and they typically hover around 2 million viewers.

Another thing FOX wouldn’t be happy with is that SmackDown is being used to promote another service. Peacock is owned by NBCUniversal but FOX has their own streaming services such as Tubi and Fox Nation which they prefer to promote, but WWE promotes Peacock because it is the service that hosts their pay-per-view events.

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Fightful also reports that FOX owner Rupert Murdoch feels it’s a “childish move” that will likely be portrayed less flatteringly in Vince McMahon’s upcoming scripted series. The “United States vs. Vince McMahon” press release notes that Murdoch bought New York Post and Post writer Phil Mushnick, who regularly took pictures of McMahon and WWE in his columns. The press release claimed that the newspaper’s headlines had caught the attention of the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office and this led to McMahon being charged with distributing steroids. McMahon was then found not guilty.

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A WWE source told Fightful that the WWE relationship between the two families is one of “great respect.” McMahon and WWE President Nick Khan are said to have met with FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks and Production Manager Brad Zager and the meeting has reportedly been productive since the end of WWE.

There would have been talk of doing an episode of Raw at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but Khan and McMahon killed the idea since FOX Sports is a Los Angeles-based company. It was then decided that SmackDown would take place in Los Angeles on December 10th.

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Earlier this month, Dave Meltzer reported that FOX was not happy that WWE wasn’t trying harder to sign CM Punk and FOX even offered to help him achieve the price needed to sign him.