After months of negotiations and speculation, it appears that WWE has new television deal in place when their current deal expires next fall.
Reports are coming out today that WWE has come to an agreement with FOX for the broadcasting rights to SmackDown Live. Previous rumors has SmackDown Live airing on FS1, Fox’s sports centered channel. However, reports today suggest that SmackDown Live will air on FOX, marking the first time WWE has had a weekly program on a major network station (all due respect to UPN).
In order to acquire the rights to “The Blue Brand”, FOX is said to be paying WWE around $205 million annually over the course of five years when the deal begins in October of 2019. Don’t worry about grabbing a calculator, I’ll do the math for you. That is a deal worth over $1 billion … … … BILLION! … … … with a B! It is a figure that puts WWE programming near the same level the country’s other top sport’s leagues.
FOX is said to move SmackDown Live from Tuesday to Friday nights. FOX has also said to promise proper promotion throughout their other big money programs like the NFL on Sundays.
This news comes shortly after the news that, in an effort to keep WWE’s flagship show Raw, USA agreed to pay WWE three times their current deal to only broadcast Raw and allow WWE to shop around for a new SmackDown Live deal.
The deal is arguably WWE’s biggest television deal to date. Airing weekly programming on one of the four major networks is something that once seemed unheard of. WWE did have Saturday Nights Main Event in the 80s and the 90s on NBC, but that was seemingly just a fill in for Saturday Night Live’s off-season.
One negative rumor regarding the deal is that FOX is considering making SmackDown Live a three-hour show like Raw is. When the rumors of a new deal began, word going around is that the new network would want to cut Raw down to two hours, which would make for better programming.
Unfortunately, we may be heading in the opposite direction. If SmackDown Live is indeed airing on FOX and not FS1, that would go a long way to keep SmackDown Live at two hours. The show would start at 7 pm CST – several local FOX affiliates air local news at 9 pm CST. My guess is that FOX would not want to eliminate a day every week from their local newscasts.
The move will not take place until next fall so the roster will need to be on high alert until then. I had referenced Raw as being the flagship show of WWE, which is has been, but many have deemed SmackDown Live the more entertaining show recently. With this move to network television, SmackDown Live very well could take over as the flagship show of WWE.
As such, WWE will want to load up their best talent on SmackDown Live to show that they belong in primetime on a major network. It will be interesting to see what next year’s Superstar Shakeup will bring and who will find their way to Friday nights.