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With Live Sports On Hold, ESPN And Fox Load Up On Pro Wrestling

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With Live Sports On Hold, ESPN And Fox Load Up On Pro Wrestling

The coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown has left sports fans with few options given most major collegiate and professional leagues and events are in limbo for now. With limited options for live sports, Fox Corp (NASDAQ: FOX) and Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) subsidiary ESPN are turning to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: WWE) to help fill the sports void.

The Show Goes On

WWE has made the controversial decision to move forward with its WrestleMania 36, scheduled for the first weekend in April. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, WWE moved the event from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to its closed WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. The event was taped on March 25 and March 26 and will air this weekend on April 4 and April 5.

In the days leading up to WrestleMania, both ESPN and Fox have ramped up their WWE content in the absence of other live sports content. On Tuesday, WWE and Fox announced that FOX Sports will begin airing 22 hours of WWE content on Tuesday nights this spring, starting with Royal Rumble 2020 and a new edition of WWE Backstage on March 31.

Big Ratings For ESPN

ESPN began airing past WrestleMania events on Sundays starting with WrestleMania 30 on March 22. The network aired WrestleMania 32 on March 29 and is airing last year’s WrestleMania 35 on April 7.

“This unique opportunity is a byproduct of the terrific working relationship we’ve enjoyed with WWE over the years and the unprecedented circumstances we all find ourselves in,” Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming at ESPN said in a statement.

So far, the decision has been a massive success for the network. The WrestleMania 30 replay on March 22 was ESPN’s most viewed program of the week. The WrestleMania 32 ESPN replay also drew the highest ratings of its week.

Of course, WWE content airing on ESPN and Fox networks in the days leading up to WrestleMania is excellent promotion for WWE as well, making it a win-win situation.

Benzinga’s Take

WWE has taken some heat for not canceling or postponing WrestleMania 36 amid the global health crisis. However, given the event will have essentially no competition from live sports, the could generate a huge audience for WWE and its partners.

Do you agree with this take? Email feedback@benzinga.com with your thoughts.

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Photo credit: Schen Photography, Flickr

 

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