Shares of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) soared by as much as 15 percent in pre-market trade on Wednesday after the company signed two major TV licensing deals for its flagship weekly shows.
WWE signed deals with Comcast-owned USA Network and Fox-owned Fox Sports starting from October 1, 2019, for its programs "Raw" and "SmackDown." USA Network will distribute "Raw" on Mondays while Fox will screen "SmackDown" on Friday as part of the five-year arrangements.
The deals will increase the average annual value of WWE's U.S. distribution to 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBC Universal, which is also owned by Comcast.
WWE anticipates revenue from these agreements will grow from $311 million in 2019 to $462 million in 2021. The sports entertainment company has other deals to negotiate in that time frame and this could increase revenue further, it said.
"Raw" and "Smackdown" are WWE's weekly programs that build up storylines between wrestlers in anticipation of main events like "Wrestlemania." "Raw" is the longest-running weekly episodic television show in U.S. prime-time history and has been on air for 25 years.
The share price reaction highlights the importance of TV distribution deals to the company even as it pushes its digital Netflix-like streaming service, the WWE Network. In the first quarter of 2018, "average paid" subscribers to the WWE Network grew 5 percent to 1.56 million.
WWE has been trying to grow in new markets including India and the Middle East and it sees localized content via the WWE Network as a way to do that. It has launched shows for the U.K., for example, and recently held its biggest pay-per-view in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia with The Greatest Royal Rumble.