The UK Broadcasting rights to World Wrestling Entertainment are up soon after 4 years and Sky (Sky Sports) may have a fight on their hands to secure a new deal with WWE. Virgin Media and Setanta Sports are both in line to battle for the rights to air the weekly broadcasts of RAW, Smackdown! and ECW as well as the monthly PPV’s and specials. WWE Joined Sky Sports fully in 2002 after many years airing on the UK’s fourth terrestrial Channel 4. The demise of WWE on Channel 4 was credited due to a number of things during the live edition of Royal Rumble 2000 Mae Young exposed herself live and soon after Channel 4 imposed a live delay on the PPV’s this pretty much lead to a non-renew of contract and an outbid from Sky Sports. The Channel also aired commercials during the PPV which become increasily unpopular with fans.
WWE’s tenure with Sky has not always been smooth sailing in 2003 Sky controversially refused WWE Armageddon making it the first WWE PPV not to be shown on Sky in years. Due to a contractual dispute with WWE (although the problem actually goes back as far as December 99′ when Channel 4 outbidded Sky for 4 PPV events including Armageddon), Sky refused to broadcast the show, which meant that UK WWE fans weren’t able to see it. However several weeks later a new WWE Box Office package was released and it still exists in the same form today in which UK fans pay for several of the PPV’s such as Wrestlemania, Summerslam (£15/$30) etc while a nice number are free! in recent years Sky Box Office has began 3 for 2 offers toward the end of the year on PPV’s. Sky Sports airs all WWE specials such as Saturday Nights Main event, three hour RAW’s and one hour promotion clips from upcoming DVD releases. If that was not enough Sky airs WWE Vintage collection which replaced Heat in the UK in 2008.
Recently WWE announced ‘This Week in WWE’ and ‘WWE Vintage Collection’ will be moved to Eurosport in all its European territories excluding the UK further sign that Sky might win the rights. Setanta Sport are becoming a bigger threat to Sky signing many large football broadcasting contracts and not to mention being the UK home for UFC. Virgin Media on the other hand seem to be the less likely candidate although they did express interest several years back in fight Sky for the rights but that was when the company was known as NTL before Virgin purchased them in 2006.
Whoever gets the broadcasting rights to WWE has a heck of a lot of programming on their hands plus replays! only time will tell.
Written By: Ben Kerin – http://www.wrestling-radio.com