Fans of the World Wrestling Entertainment program SmackDown Live will have to change their DVR settings in October 2019.
As first reported by Tony Maglio of The Wrap and confirmed by Darren Rovell of ESPN on Monday, the WWE had agreed in principle with the Fox Network for the broadcasting rights to SmackDown Live. The company’s blue brand will not only have a new television home, but will also move from Tuesdays back to Friday nights. The deal reportedly will be for five years and be worth $1 billion. Reports of the deal had WWE stock valued as high as $59.45 per share.
This deal is largely made possible thanks to WWE’s current broadcast home, NBC Universal. The network, who is currently negotiating an extension with the WWE to keep the flagship Monday Night Raw on its airwaves, used their right of first refusal when it came to broadcasting SmackDown Live. This let the WWE look for a a new home for their Tuesday show and opened the door for Fox to step in.
Fox has made its desire to have the WWE under their banner be well known. Plans were to have Monday Night Raw air on the broadcast network while having SmackDown Live be on Fox Sports 1. The network had even been willing to part ways with the Ultimate Fighting Championship if it meant getting the WWE. Now Fox will try to have its cake and eat it too as it is still bidding for the UFC dates that remain after the mixed martial arts promotion’s seperate multi-year deal with ESPN to broadcast 15 fights on the new ESPN+ streaming service starting in 2019.
TV rights and the money that comes with them have become very important to WWE as live show attendance has decreased in recent years. Even with that factor the company has not limited itself to TV networks when it came to potential broadcasting partners. Other reported landing spots for WWE included Amazon and Facebook, which was the home of this year’s Mixed Match Challenge.
As far as SmackDown Live goes this move will be a return to normal of sorts. For much of the show’s existence broadcast TV has been its home since its debut on UPN in 1999. The show length and start time will remain the same as Fox has its local affiliates start their nightly news programs begin at 10 pm. The big question now will be whether the show will remain live or go back to tape delay. WWE has the SmackDown roster have their main show on Tuesday when touring so taping the show and airing it on a later night was a necessary move. In the age of social media that may no longer be as viable as spoilers, something WWE doesn’t like, will become unavoidable.
Something to keep in mind in all this is the agreement between WWE and Fox at the time of publication is just that, an agreement. No formal contracts have been signed yet meaning the deal could easily fall apart. NBC Universal, who is also bidding for the same UFC dates Fox is, could change their minds should they lose out on those dates and offer a better deal to WWE. The logistics of moving SmackDown back to tape delay may not actually work out.
Luckily for all parties involved there is enough time to work out all the kinks.