WWE SmackDown will begin airing live on Friday nights in October 2019 on FOX Sports, the network and sports entertainment company announced on Tuesday afternoon.
It had been widely reported in the industry that FOX and WWE had made the deal several weeks ago, though FOX had not officially announced the agreement with Vince McMahon's WWE. The agreement is for five years, with SmackDown remaining a two hour broadcast.
The joint press release is below in its entirety.
FOX Sports Becomes New Home of SmackDown® Live
06/26/2018 - NEW YORK & STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- 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 averaging1 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).
SmackDownLive 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™.
1: Source: Nielsen NNTV, 2018 YTD through April (1/1/18-4/30/18), Live+7 Average Viewers for selected demographics (P18-49, P25-54, P2+).
This will be a change for WWE in that SmackDown moves from Tuesday nights back to Friday nights, where it aired between 2005 and 2015. Though the Friday night timeslot wasn't the best during that period, it was airing on less viewed channels like MyNetwork TV, CW, and SyFy. Airing on broadcast television with FOX will provide additional exposure that WWE did not have for the program previously, specifically promotion during highly viewed broadcasts elsewhere on the network such as NFL football, including Thursday night games moving forward, which should provide a great opportunity to promote WWE SmackDown to millions of potential viewers the night before it airs.
WWE also announced on Tuesday that the USA Network has renewed their deal to broadcast RAW on Monday nights. Deadline reports that USA had the right of first refusal for both SmackDown and RAW. SmackDown began airing on USA Network in 2016, but USA opted to concentrate solely on RAW due to the increase in price for television rights and their long history of broadcasting the show.
For their part, FOX is picking up SmackDown as part of their "New FOX" movement that is set to feature more sports and live events.