WWE and UFC are two of the biggest companies in sports entertainment. It turns out they could ink a deal with streaming giants, Disney. Back in 2016, before UFC was sold for $4 billion to the company that would become Endeavor Group, the mixed martial arts league was nearly bagged by Disney for a little bit more. Disney and UFC had negotiated broad terms of a deal in which the entertainment giant would acquire the combat sports company for about $4.3 billion. Disney, which owns the majority of sports broadcast network ESPN, has considered the idea of buying sports leagues for years.
A couple of years later, Disney’s ESPN paid $1.5 billion for UFC TV rights in a five-year deal. That deal immediately increased the value of UFC to $7 billion, according to UFC CEO Dana White. Disney’s ESPN+ also inked a $150 million per year deal to stream UFC fights in an agreement that runs out in 2025.
WWE could be a target of the streaming companies
It has been noted that if ESPN renews UFC rights, Disney will pay much more in licensing fees than the $4.3 billion it would have paid in 2016. It seems that WWE could also be a target for streaming companies as a way to control ever-increasing rights fees for valuable live programming that still commands advertising dollars.
WWE has a market capitalization of $4.6 billion and stands out as a potential takeover candidate because it’s a publicly-traded company with an aging controlling shareholder, Vince McMahon, who owns more than 80% of voting power.
“We’re open for business,” Nick Khan, WWE’s president, said last month on The Ringer’s “The Town” podcast. Thus, this raises question if the company is actually open to do the business deals. A buyer could be a legacy media company, such as Disney, Fox, Paramount Global or Comcast’s NBCUniversal, which last year struck a five-year deal with WWE for more than $1 billion to be the exclusive direct-to-consumer home for WWE. We will have to see what future holds for the company.