As we reported a few months ago, WWE has been planning on a major deal with FOX. Yesterday, both parties officially announced that SmackDown Live will be moving to FOX starting in 2019. This news also came with WWE announcing that Monday Night RAW will continue being aired on NBCUniversal’s USA Network, both 5-year deals.
SmackDown Live’s move to FOX marks an unprecedented deal for WWE. FOX agreed to pay $205 million a year to air the Blue Brand, equaling over $1 billion in total. This deal is over 3x what WWE was receiving for having SmackDown Live air on USA.
WWE feels this deal legitimizes, not only their business model, but the Pro-Wrestling industry itself. WWE co-president George Barrios said in a conference call with investors: “I think you saw a lot of different players that had previously not attached themselves to WWE come closer. The success we have had in social, digital and direct-to-consumer repositions the WWE as a business brand and as a business partner. We went from being viewed as a live-event business to more of a social, digital, direct-to-consumer media business with proven expertise around it.”
With the set for October 1, 2019, there are still questions that remain to be answered. Will SmackDown Live remain… well… Live? What day of the week will SmackDown Live be airing and what changes can we see to the brand itself?
Since its creation, SmackDown Live has always been seen as the little brother to Monday Night Raw (albeit, a cool younger brother). Raw is always named “The Flagship Show”, along with being given bigger stars, more complex story lines, and given more time on TV. While SmackDown Live was the “wrestling show”.
However, with the move to a Prime Time network, is WWE showing a change in its philosophy regarding SmackDown Live? Could SmackDown Live get a face lift, with higher profile superstars, and different production? Currently, reports suggest that SmackDown Live will remain a Live program, airing two hours for 52 weeks each year.
The plan is also said to have SmackDown Live move from Tuesday nights to Friday Nights. As SmackDown Live is expected to be FOX’s highest-rated show during the week. There are also rumors of SmackDown Live changing its name to one of the two most popular titles: SmackDown on FOX or Friday Night SmackDown.
A monster television deal like this puts the pressure on WWE in the best way possible. SmackDown Live is almost guaranteed– regardless of who is on the show itself– to be made to feel and look like a much bigger deal.
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