UFC, WWE to Merge Creating $21 Billion Global Live Sports and Entertainment Company

Endeavor Group Holdings, the media parent to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and World Wrestling Entertainment on April 3 announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement to form a new, publicly listed company consisting of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling promotions and content creation. Upon close of the $9.3 billion transaction, Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling interest in the new company and existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% stake in the new company.

In 2022, UFC and WWE achieved combined revenue of $2.4 billion and a 10% annual revenue growth rate since 2019.

Ariel Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, will head the the new combined company, while WWE founder Vincent McMahon becomes executive chairman of the board of directors. Mark Shapiro will become president and chief operating officer of both Endeavor and the new company. Dana White will continue in his role as president of UFC and Nick Khan will serve as president of WWE.

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The board will consist of 11 members who will be appointed at a later date, six of whom will be appointed by Endeavor and five of whom by WWE.

“This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed,” Emanuel said in a statement. “For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together.”

McMahon said the combined company is a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people worldwide.

“The new company will be well positioned to maximize the value of our combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content, including movies and TV shows, and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster our strong stable of brands,” McMahon said.

Endeavor expects significant growth across revenue areas, including domestic and international media rights, ticket sales and yield optimization, event operations, sponsorship, licensing and premium hospitality. Endeavor’s success at UFC includes increasing commercial opportunities that have driven more than 200% pre-tax earnings growth since its acquisition in late 2016.

In January 2021, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform became the exclusive American distributor of the WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming platform with about 1.5 million paid subscribers.

Peacock to Stream First WWE Original Series ‘WWE Evil,’ Hosted by John Cena, March 24

Peacock announced that its first WWE original series “WWE Evil” will begin streaming exclusively on the service March 24.

Created and hosted by John Cena, the eight-part docuseries is the latest expansion of WWE programming on Peacock, and the first-ever original from WWE Studios. It takes a look at the most diabolical antagonists in WWE history.

“As Peacock continues to expand its WWE programming, we are thrilled to bring the new original series ‘WWE Evil’ to the platform, working with the one and only John Cena,” Benny Reuven, VP of entertainment unscripted content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. “There is no one better to take viewers into the minds of WWE’s fiercest villains than Cena himself. We can’t wait for WWE fans to devour this series.”

Each one-hour episode dives into a single infamous heel, including each villain’s history, their key rivalries and career defining moments. Villains include “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, The Miz, Sasha Banks, the Brothers of Destruction, Randy Orton, Stephanie McMahon, Ric Flair and Roman Reigns.

“WWE Evil” was created by executive producer John Cena.

Peacock is the exclusive streaming home in the United States for WWE, offering fans catalog content in addition to premium live events.

Netflix and WWE Studios Announce Live-Action Family Comedy Series ‘The Big Show Show’

Netflix July 30 announced the future release of “The Big Show Show,” a half-hour, comedy series starring WWE wrestler The Big Show (Paul Wight). Production on the 10-episode series begins in Los Angeles on Aug. 9.

The series stars Wight (“Fighting with My Family,” WWE), Allison Munn (“Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn”), Reylynn Caster (“American Housewife”), Juliet Donenfeld (“Pete the Cat”) and Lily Brooks O’Briant (“The Tick”).

The series’ premise revolves around Wight, a retired WWE Superstar, whose teenage daughter comes to live with him, his wife and two other daughters. Wight quickly becomes outnumbered and outsmarted by the women, despite being 7 feet tall and weighing 400 pounds. He is no longer the center of attention.

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“The Big Show Show” is Netflix’s latest project with WWE Studios, following the recent announcement of family film, The Main Event.

The comedy series joins a growing slate of live-action series featuring kids and teens and made for families, which includes “Family Reunion,””Malibu Rescue,” “No Good Nick,” “Alexa & Katie” and the upcoming series “The Letter for the King” and “The Baby-Sitters Club.”

Fighting With My Family


Street Date 5/14/19;
Box Office $22.96 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content.
Stars Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant.

The notion that professional wrestling is “fake” is pervasive enough that most people don’t realize it’s a world just as competitive as any sport. It’s just the indicators of success aren’t strictly focused on the results in the ring.

As is made abundantly clear in the very entertaining Fighting With My Family, while the results of wrestling matches are more or less fixed as a means of storytelling and showmanship, the athleticism on display is just as genuine as any contest where the results aren’t predetermined.

The film tells the story of WWE superstar Paige, who emerged from a family of wrestlers in England to become one of the top female performers in the world’s biggest pro-wrestling promotion.

With her family’s small promotion struggling to get by, Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to a WWE tryout. But when Paige is the only one deemed worthy of potential superstardom, the siblings must come to terms with the notion that one’s dream and one’s destiny might lead to separate paths.

For Paige, that means leaving her family to train in America, and dealing with the hardships of trying to fit in when it seems she doesn’t quite fit in. For Zak, it means coming to terms with the idea that maybe his place isn’t in the spotlight, but quietly working behind the scenes to further the traditions of his family profession.

Fighting With My Family is based on a British TV documentary about Paige and her family and their passion for professional wrestling. Director Stephen Merchant has refocused the story into a rather typical sports movie underdog tale, playing fast-and-loose with the reality it for a more concise narrative.

Vince Vaughn’s character of Hutch Morgan, for example, is a composite of a variety of WWE authorities Paige would have encountered during her training in the NXT developmental program, essentially the minor leagues of wrestling.

The movie also skips over dealing with NXT’s own championship hierarchy, where using it might have giving a better sense of Paige’s progress within the company aside from her reactions to a few contentious exchanges with Hutch, and some encouraging words from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who pops in to play himself.

As such, the film’s climactic result seems a bit forced within the context of the story beats the movie itself has established, a development owing more to being a re-creation of the real event than something the film’s version of events has earned. Merchant’s comedic background serves the offbeat moments of the story well, but he admittedly wasn’t aware of the inner workings of professional wrestling before taking on the task of helming the film, and a few beats focused more on the mechanics of pro-wrestling storytelling might have been warranted.

Still, aided by some great performances by the main cast, the film offers plenty of heartfelt sentiment in celebrating the power of family to fuel the pursuit of a lifelong dream and find comfort and contentment when things don’t always go according to plan.

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Home video extras include nine minutes of deleted scenes, a three-minute gag reel, a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a three-minute video about training for the physicality in the film. Merchant also provides an audio commentary for the film.

The Blu-ray also features an “unrated director’s cut” of the film, but the alterations are so minor that its inclusion seems like more of a marketing gimmick than anything of consequential artistic value. That being said, based on the few identifiable differences, my preference tends to lean toward the unrated cut, which actually runs three seconds shorter than the theatrical version.

The changes don’t alter the story in any way and consist mostly of alternate takes featuring slightly cruder dialogue to get the same message across.

I’ve managed to identify five alterations:

1) A slightly faster edit for a key joke during the dinner scene of Zak’s girlfriend’s parents meeting his family;
2) The Rock having a slightly different reaction to Paige’s shock at meeting him for the first time;
3) A more grotesque line of dialogue from an audience member reacting to Paige’s first introduction to an NXT crowd;
4) A faster edit of Zak getting into a bar fight; and
5) An obscenity as Hutch is testing Paige’s comebacks to potential crowd insults.

Also note that while Universal is distributing the Blu-ray, the film is an MGM production and thus the digital copy is not compatible with Movies Anywhere, but redeemable only through iTunes.

WWE Streaming Video Service Sub Count Down Slightly

World Wrestling Entertainment saw its namesake WWE Network subscription video streaming service generate 1.58 million first-quarter (ended March 31) subscribers — up 2% from the same period last year, but down slightly from 1.59 million subs in Q4.

For the current second quarter, WWE projects average paid subscribers of about 1.7 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 5%.The company’s primary focus for WWE Network is the launch of a new OTT platform partnership with Endeavor Streaming and Massive.

The enhanced platform promises to bring new “features and experiences,” to viewers including delivery of content in multiple languages.

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Media revenue, which includes OTT, transactional VOD and digital retail, increased to $135.4 million from $133.4 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily due to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees. The growth was partially offset by lower advertising sales, particularly on YouTube, and the unfavorable timing of advertising and sponsorship sales across other platforms.

The segment’s operating income declined nearly 55% to $16.3 million from $35.9 million.

Susan Levison Named Head of WWE Studios

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is doubling down on original content. The company has named longtime TV executive Susan Levison head of WWE Studios, reporting to WWE co-president Michelle Wilson.

Levison comes from CBS Television Studios, where she was SVP, alternative programming, responsible for all unscripted development and production across cable, streaming and digital platforms. While at CBS, she produced unscripted projects and series in a variety of genres.

Susan Levison

WWE Studios develops and produces scripted and non-scripted series, documentaries, animated programming and feature films, including just released Fighting with My Family, starring Dwayne Johnson.

The studio’s TV shows include “Total Divas” and “Total Bellas” on E!, “Miz & Mrs.” on USA Network, as well as documentaries in partnership with HBO and ESPN. Movie franchises include The Call and The Marine.

“WWE Studios is making a big push in global content across genres and platforms to reach new audiences, super-serve our passionate fans and further establish the WWE brand,” Wilson said in a statement.

Prior to CBS, Levison served as EVP, original programming & production at VH1, overseeing more than 350 hours of original programming and development annually. During that time, Levison ramped up their scripted efforts, developing the critically-acclaimed drama, “Hindsight.” She also launched “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood,” which ranked as cable’s highest-rated new unscripted series of 2014, and the Nicole Richie soft-scripted series, “Candidly Nicole.”

Previously, Levison helped to launch FishBowl Worldwide Media, a startup production company, where she developed, sold and produced scripted and unscripted series for Bravo, Discovery, TruTV, Animal Planet, Fuse and VH1.