February 2014 is one of the biggest months in the history of WWE and is sure to change the business forever. In addition to the company launching the long-awaited WWE Network on Monday, February 24, 2014, they will also look to determine their future on cable television.
NBC Universal, WWE's current domestic television partner, will have until February 15, 2014 to accept or reject WWE's final offer to extend their agreement. WWE is currently looking to significantly increase the $139.5 million they earn each year for domestic TV licensing fees.
While the belief within the television industry is that NBCU won't let WWE go, the company will be able to negotiate with other networks if NBCU rejects their final proposal. Outside bids are due on February 28, 2014 and WWE is set to select its domestic TV partner by March 4, 2014. Any move, should there be a move, would happen in October 2014.
It is interesting to note there are a couple of tie-ins with TNA Wrestling here. First, TNA's domestic TV deal with Viacom's Spike TV is up in October 2014. Should WWE and NBCU not renew their agreement, there are already rumors Viacom could make a play to re-acquire WWE programming. Spike TV carried Monday Night Raw from 2000 to 2005. In fact, industry insiders claim there has already been informal contact between WWE and Viacom executives.
Even if WWE renews their agreement with NBCU, there could still be a problem for TNA. The New York Postreported that NBCU was thinking about pitching a physical WWE Hall of Fame from Universal Studios in attempt to retain the rights to its programming. One of the hold ups on a physical Hall of Fame at Universal has been the theme park's reluctance to give WWE exclusive rights there. TNA is currently using Universal Studios as their "hub" for taping their material and while they have dates confirmed through May, there is no long-term lease agreement in place.