ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling, Burke Magnus, spoke with The Wrap this week to promote the network’s Upfronts. During the interview, Magnus spoke at length about the network recently negotiating with WWE before the FOX deal was finalized in hopes of adding SmackDown Live to their network when their deal with USA Network expires. Featured below are some of the highlights.
On negotiating with WWE before the FOX deal was finalized about possibly adding SmackDown Live to their network when their deal with USA Network expires: “We did talk to WWE during their process some months ago. Took a hard look at it, we’re obviously big fans of them. We just went into business with them on the XFL indirectly, but we couldn’t find a fit for it, primarily based on schedule.
“As you know, those properties are 52 weeks a year live, and I’m proud to say we have a pretty good problem, which is that we can’t clear anything 52 weeks a year live. We have a pretty full portfolio of content as it is.”
On whether or not any consideration was made to WWE implementing an “off-season” for SmackDown Live to work within ESPN’s parameters: “Not specifically that, but we looked at all kinds of conversations to try and make it fit. It just didn’t work. We parted ways and they got a good deal with their new partners, continuing at NBC[Universal’s USA Network] and adding FOX. So all’s well that ends well for them — but we gave it a good try.”
On ESPN not choosing between UFC and WWE, but instead negotiating with WWE in hopes of adding SmackDown Live on top of their massive deal with the UFC: “The UFC deal was really done before that, we were already set in stone. [‘SmackDown’] was going to be in addition to that.”
On whether or not they ever negotiated with upstart promotion All Elite Wrestling (AEW): “They did not come to us.”
Check out the complete Burke Magnus interview at TheWrap.com.