World Wrestling Entertainment moving Smackdown to Fox (thanks to more than $1 billion dollars over five years) is one of the biggest wrestling stories this year. It’s going to change the WWE landscape because it will put one of WWE’s main two shows on a major television network, which is an upgrade from being on cable TV. The first Smackdown on Fox date is Friday, October 4.
The current plan is to put Smackdown on the main Fox channel from 8-10pmET on Friday nights and brand is part of Fox’s “Fox Sports” division. There have been reports that Fox wants Smackdown to be more “sports oriented” meaning more in-ring action and less of the bad WWE comedy that exists. Based on recent rumors, there may be even more Smackdown to consume when that happens.
On the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio (WrestlingObserver.com via subscription), Dave Meltzer noted that there is speculation that WWE might be making Smackdown a three-hour show in October with two hours on Fox and one hour right after on Fox Sports 1.
Here’s what Meltzer said with thanks to Ringside News for the quote:
“It is speculation [at this point] but there is a chance. There is definitely a chance of that because the feeling is that since they have to film anyway and 205 Live is kinda just a waste of air, it’s just not working that maybe what they’ll do is two hours 8-10 on Friday nights and do hour three on FS1 with the idea that they can get another $50 million a year off of Fox by giving that extra hour.”
More money for another hour of content? It sounds possible because, as Meltzer points out, WWE usually films an hour post-Smackdown anyway with 205 Live, which is likely not a money maker.
A big reason why Fox would be interested in doing this is it would provide live programming to FS1, which is in need of live content because Fox lost UFC to ESPN when Fox went for WWE. There have also been rumors of FS1 hosting some sort of WWE studio “news” style show and even the possibility of NXT moving to FS1 full time in the fall.
There are also people in the financial industry that believe WWE is going to do it. In this article on Benzinga, MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler noted that same addition of $50 million per year from Fox should WWE and Fox decide to do another hour of Smackdown. Handler also noted that later in 2019, WWE’s new TV deals in China, the Middle East and India are worth between $20 to $25 million collectively.
What would happen to 205 Live at that point? They could tape it before Smackdown, but that would make it an extremely long night for the fans in attendance with nearly four hours of content. It wouldn’t surprise me if WWE pulled the plug on 205 Live unless they feel like keeping it going by taping it at Full Sail in Orlando (like NXT) or something like that.
For now, take it as a rumor. We should know more in the weeks and months ahead with six months to go until Smackdown’s debut on Fox.
If WWE does get more money out of the Fox deal, we should assume that there will be more dance breaks from Vince McMahon.
Here’s the full press release that WWE sent out in June 2018 announcing their deal with Fox.
NEW YORK and STAMFORD, Conn., June 26, 2018 – For the first time, every Friday night beginning October 4, 2019, FOX broadcast network will air WWE’s flagship program SmackDown LIVE as part of a new five-year agreement with FOX Sports. The weekly, two-hour live event will air 52 weeks a year and captivate fans with a unique combination of edge-of-your-seat action, unpredictable drama and world-class athleticism.
“At FOX we are thrilled to welcome WWE to the FOX Sports family and bring SmackDown LIVE to broadcast television,” said Eric Shanks, President, COO and Executive Producer FOX Sports. “We are huge fans and know that together FOX Sports will be the leader in live events for the foreseeable future.”
“WWE and FOX are a perfect match,” said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman & CEO. “Moving SmackDown LIVE to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage FOX’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programming.”
SmackDown LIVE is a consistent winner on television, currently averaging 1 1.3M P18-49, 1.3M P25-54 and 3M total viewers P2+.
On air for almost 20 years and nearly 1,000 episodes, SmackDown LIVE is the second-longest running weekly episodic cable television show in U.S. primetime history, only behind Monday Night Raw. SmackDown Live is currently among the most-watched, regularly scheduled programs on primetime cable and delivers more viewers in primetime than any cable network in the U.S. (2.9 million average viewers).
SmackDown LIVE has also helped launch the careers of pop-culture icons including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Bella Twins.
TJR Thoughts: I’m not a huge fan of the idea of Smackdown going one hour longer, but it doesn’t surprise me that Fox would want it and that WWE would be willing to do it since they would make more money. I think the quality of the show dips when you go for three hours and we have seen that with Raw, which frankly has too much filler while Smackdown is a much better show. Everybody has a price, though. Yes, I quoted the Ted Dibiase theme song. It was a great one.