The entertainment industry could have see another monopoly in the near future. As reported by Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter, industry observers believe that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is looking to merge NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery. If this is something that Roberts does indeed pursue, negotiations would not be able to begin until April 2024. While the obvious implications of a merger this massive revolve around the external competition, as these two titans coming together would rival Disney in sheer size, there are variables from within that could change one specific industry's landscape: professional wrestling.
The two biggest wrestling promotions in the world today are independently owned, but each have television agreements with one of the potentially partnering parties. All Elite Wrestling airs AEW Dynamite and AEW Rampage on WBD channels TBS and TNT and holds its pay-per-views on B/R Live, while World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts Monday Night Raw and WWE NXT on NBCU's USA Network and holds monthly premium live events on Peacock.
Chances of a crossover between the two promotions have always been written off as an impossible fantasy, but a merger like this would theoretically bring AEW and WWE under the same television umbrella. The reason that remains a hypothetical is because AEW is currently seeking a television renewal with WBD as its current contract is set to expire sometime in 2023. AEW President Tony Khan has touted AEW's strong relationship with WarnerMedia, but it remains to be seen how much the new regime at WBD values his product.
On the other side, WWE's television deal with NBCU expires sometime in 2024. Even though the USA Network has been the home of Raw for decades, it's worth noting that FOX initially sought the rights to WWE's red branded show before it opted to purchase SmackDown instead. If FOX is impressed with SmackDown viewership come Raw's deal's expiration, it could flirt with the idea of adding WWE Mondays to its calendar. Going even further, the WWE Network is only on Peacock until 2026, and WWE co-CEO Nick Khan has already teased the idea of working with Netflix at some point in the future.
"We believe Netflix's appetite for live (programming) will only increase after the introduction of their ad tier," Nick Khan said earlier this year. "As we all know, the strongest CPMs are those sold against live programming."
Regardless of what the televised future holds for both promotions, let's play with the idea that AEW and WWE are still with WBD and NBCU when this potential merger goes down. As evident by recent House of the Dragon and Shark Week-branded specials on AEW Dynamite, it's clear that WBD fancies crossing over its properties. Depending on how much leverage WBD would have in this merger, executives on the WBD side would likely entertain the idea of bringing together the two promotions for a televised special. Beyond that, AEW has run multiple wrestling crossovers before, most notably in this past June's super show with New Japan Pro Wrestling, AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door.
Even with the precedents that lie before it, it's unclear if a crossover between AEW and WWE could be mandated by the networks or if either promotion would get the ultimate say. That said, it could become significantly more likely if WWE sells itself to NBCU, which has been rumored for a couple of years now. If WWE is outright owned by NBCU, that could change the hierarchy of decision-making within the company.
It also helps the chances of a crossover that this potential merger would likely also combine HBO Max with Peacock, as evident by this past summer's announcement that Discovery+ would soon become a tab on HBO Max. If there's a world where AEW Double or Nothing and WWE WrestleMania are being streamed on the same platform, it's only a matter of time before executives begin discussing a combined super show.0comments