Here's Why ESPN Passed on SmackDown Live

In the midst of FOX presenting their plans for SmackDown Live this Fall at this week's upfronts, ESPN executive vice president of programming Burke Magnus revealed in an interview with The Wrap this week that the Blue Brand nearly wound up on the popular sports network.

According to Magnus, WWE and ESPN had lengthy negotiations over making a deal for the show, but talks fell through when ESPN struggled to find a spot for WWE programming ever week of the year.

"We did talk to WWE during their process some months ago," Magnus said. "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," he added. "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."

Magnus was also asked about All Elite Wrestling, which is expected to announce its television deal with Turner ahead of WarnerMedia's upfront presentation on Wednesday.

"They did not come to us," Magnus said.

FOX reportedly paid the WWE roughly $1 billion for a five-year deal, which will start when the show moves to Friday nights on the network on Oct. 4. The company's upfront presentation this week confirmed that the show would remain two hours long.

WWE is reportedly already feeling pressure from FOX executives. Reports came out last week that network officials from both FOX and NBCUniversal pushed for Raw and SmackDown to hit higher ratings, which resulted in Vince McMahon introducing the new Wild Card Rule that allows certain stars from one show to freely appear on the other. That rule was in full effect last week with Roman Reigns opening Monday Night Raw, while Kofi Kingston defended his WWE Championship in the main event of both shows.



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