The news that there would be WWE television on a network channel hit a couple of months back but the WWE finally released the news on Tuesday — just in time for fans of SmackDown Live to learn about it before the show aired.
USA Network will no longer be the home of SmackDown Live after 2019, although it will keep Monday Night Raw. Instead, Fox has purchased the rights to SmackDown Live but when will WWE move their program to Fox?
The announcement today indicates that WWE SmackDown Live will air on Fox starting on October 4, 2019. This is a huge move for the WWE since it will separate them from Monday Night Raw and give them a presence on broadcast television.
Monday Night Raw started out on USA Network and moved to TNN before moving back to USA Network. SmackDown was on TNN and then moved to the SyFy Channel and then to USA Network. Now, SmackDown Live will be on Fox television.
Take a look at the calendar and the biggest change will be obvious. SmackDown Live is moving from Tuesday nights to Friday nights when it moves. This is a strange move since Friday nights are the worst nights for television ratings.
There is no chance Fox buries it either. They paid $1 billion to air SmackDown Live over the next five years. USA Network had first rights to the WWE TV shows and only chose to keep Monday Night Raw at an estimated $250 million a year.
“Monday Night Raw has been synonymous with USA Network and we are excited about what the future holds for WWE’s flagship program,” WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said.
With that said, the WWE to Fox deal is a huge one. As of 2015, USA Network reached 96.3 million homes. While the announcement refers to “Fox Sports,” SmackDown Live will actually be on Fox broadcasting network in association with their Fox Sports branch.
Fox reaches 114.8 million homes and has 223 full-power affiliates. Moving to Friday nights also prevents college football from preempting it on Saturdays — which was also on the table.
“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,” McMahon said.
Even with Friday nights being a “death slot” for most shows, the WWE should keep close to the same viewers they have on Tuesday nights. SmackDown Live averages about 2.5 million viewers right now.