A month and change after a deal moving “WWE Smackdown” to FOX was reported, it’s now official: The pro-wrestling show will return to broadcast TV in 2019.
The deal will put “Smackdown” under the FOX Sports banner and will air on the network starting Oct. 4, 2019. FOX and the WWE signed a five-year contract for the show, which currently airs on USA.
The WWE has also announced a five-year extension for “Monday Night Raw” on USA, which will keep the show in its long-time home through fall 2024.
“WWE and FOX are a perfect match,” WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon says in a statement. “Moving ‘Smackdown’ 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.”
News of a deal to move “Smackdown” to FOX first surfaced in late May, although neither the network nor WWE confirmed it at the time. The show will move from its current Tuesday home to Friday nights, where it aired from 2005-15 across several networks (UPN/The CW, MyNetworkTV and Syfy).
When “Smackdown” debuts on FOX, the network will have three consecutive nights of live sports(-ish) programming — “Thursday Night Football,” “Smackdown” and college football on Saturdays — in the fall, plus afternoon NFL games on Sunday that help bolster the primetime lineup.
In 2018-19, FOX has the revival of “Last Man Standing,” new sitcom “The Cool Kids” and long-running reality series “Hell’s Kitchen” as its Friday lineup. If they all survive to the 2019-20 season, they’ll need new homes.
“Smackdown” will give FOX original Friday programming every week of the year. In the first four months of 2018, the show averaged 2.89 million viewers and a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 in Live +7 ratings.
As for “Raw,” the extension will take the show into its 31st year on USA. The cable channel had a right of first refusal on both “Raw” and “Smackdown” and opted to focus on “Raw” while letting “Smackdown” go on the market. WWE and USA’s parent, NBCUniversal, also work together on several other shows, including “Total Divas” and “Total Bellas” on E! and the upcoming “Miz and Mrs.” on USA.