Smackdown moving to Fox in 2019: Five things it means for WWE fans

wwe smackdown liveWWE Smackdown is moving to Fox in October 2019, part of a $1 billion, five-year deal that moves the blue brand to Big 4 network television for the first time.

The move will include a switch for Smackdown from going live on Tuesdays to being broadcast on Fridays. There is no indication at this stage as to whether the show will continue to air live.

Currently, the Smackdown touring brand works live house shows Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with Tuesday reserved for a live event broadcast on live TV.

Live or taped?

I’m presuming at this stage that WWE would want to keep the show live. A big issue back during the previous incarnation of Smackdown when it was taped on Tuesdays and then aired on Thursdays or Fridays was the inevitable spoilers, which you had to presume had an impact on TV viewership. It certainly did mine, anyway.

With a year and a half to prepare, you can go through any number of scenarios for WWE to adjust its scheduling to accommodate live Smackdowns on Fridays.

Length

The show is likely to remain two hours, given that Fox only provides its affiliates with two hours of prime-time programming on weeknights, leading into 10 p.m. local news broadcasts on those affiliates, a quirk in scheduling for the network.

Marketing

With Raw remaining on USA, which is owned by NBC Universal, you can presume that cross-promotional opportunities will be at least limited, though likely not curtailed. Still, you’re not going to see the relentless co-branding that you’ve seen on USA the past couple of years.

That said, WWE has to be beside itself that it has a show on a broadcast network, even if broadcast networks today aren’t what they were 10 years ago, certainly 25 years ago. It’s just the cachet of being on one of the Big 4, and in particular a network with the broadcast rights to the NFL and MLB, which you can assume will be used to help promote WWE programming, just as you can assume there will be plenty of commercials on Smackdown on Friday nights for MLB and NFL games coming up on the weekends.

Money

The money itself is huge, at $200 million a year, on top of the estimated $250-$300 million that NBC Universal is paying for Raw. WWE will be getting, easily, three times what it is getting under its current deal with NBC Universal, not even accounting for the co-promotional opportunities with the NFL and MLB broadcasts.

Product

For Attitude Era fans who have been hoping for years for a return to the edgier programming of the 1990s and early ‘aughts, well, so much for your damn luck.

The money that NBC Universal and Fox are throwing at Vince McMahon is a validation of the strategy to tone down the edginess in favor of a PG product that could attract the likes of broadcast networks and big-money advertisers.

Which is to say, no barbed-wire matches, no mud wrestling, no blood. Except in the archives of the WWE Network, and even then with a disclaimer.

Column by Chris Graham

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