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World Wrestling Entertainment Hits All-Time, But Not in Merger Talks With AMC Networks

Updated from 8:39 a.m. to include information in the eighth paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Following an intra-day spike in World Wrestling Entertainment  (WWE) shares due to rumors about AMC Networks (AMCX) buying the company, TheStreet has been told by a source close to the situation that the two companies aren't in merger talks.

Around 2 P.M. on Thursday, shares of the Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment spiked, hitting an intra-day high of $31.98, before settling at $29.75, as rumors that AMC, which houses popular shows such as Mad Men and The Walking Dead, would make a bid for WWE. The bid would value WWE at approximately $2.8 billion. However, this is "just a rumor," according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

Shares of WWE were spiking in early Friday trading, gaining 1.5% to $30.20, while AMC Networks was higher as well, gaining 0.84% to $74.37.

Even if such a deal were to occur, it would be difficult, as WWE CEO Vince McMahon controls the company via Class B shares that have added voting rights, a similar situation to what Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has, as well as Google (GOOG) has with CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin.

WWE is currently in discussions for television negotiation rights fees, for its popular Raw and Smackdown shows, as the company's contract with Comcast (CMCSA) subsidiary NBCUniversal comes to an end. The exclusive negotiation window between WWE and NBCUniversal expired Feb. 15, and WWE is now free to shop its programming elsewhere. NBCUniversal has limited matching rights, and can potentially match any bid for the content, with WWE seeking to try to double or perhaps triple its previous contract.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios said the company hopes to have a new deal by the end of April or the beginning of May, noting that the company is in talks with "multiple parties," though he declined to name them.

WWE has been busy renegotiating its television rights deals, as the company has launched its own WWE Network, an over-the-top (OTT) subscription network, similar to Netflix (NFLX). The WWE Network was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show, and will cost consumers $9.99 a month for all of the company's pay-per-view selections, including WrestleMania, as well as the company's vast content library.

In an interview with TheStreet last month, Barrios said the Network could a "home run" for the company. "If we come out of 2014 with 1 million subscribers, we'll get to 2 to 3 million in the traditional ramp rate," Barrios said during the interview. "We've done a lot of research on this. We have very excitable fans who share the brand exuberance, and the standard algorithms we did for the research saw we could get 2 to 3 million subscribers. That's a home run for us, and it changes the business."

In January, the company announced it had re-upped its deal with BSkyB, the British cable-TV provider. BSkyB, which is 39% owned by 21st Century Fox (FOXA), extends the current deal by an additional five years through 2019, bringing WWE's popular television shows, Raw, SmackDown and MainEvent to more than 15.5 million homes in the U.K. and Ireland.

 See Also: Here's Why the WWE Network Is a 'Ground Breaking Event'

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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