“WWE Smackdown” will return to broadcast TV in 2019. The WWE and FOX have signed an agreement for the pro-wrestling show.
“Smackdown,” which currently airs Tuesday nights on USA, will move to Fridays on FOX in fall 2019. (The Wrap was first to report the deal.) The agreement comes a few days after NBCUniversal, which owns USA, opted not to renew its deal for “Smackdown”; the channel is, however, likely retaining rights to “Monday Night Raw.”
Both the WWE and FOX have declined comment as of posting time.
FOX is in the midst of remaking itself as its sister studio, 20th Century Fox TV, is being sold to Disney (along with other assets including FX). The sale is likely to go through sometime in 2019, assuming it wins regulatory approval. Following that, “New FOX” is expected to focus more on sports and live programming.
The network already has a five-year agreement for the NFL’s Thursday primetime package, and adding “Smackdown” will give it three straight nights of live programming in the fall (assuming “Smackdown” remains a live broadcast), with the WWE sandwiched between the NFL on Thursday nights and college football on Saturdays.
For 2018-19, FOX has the “Last Man Standing” revival, new sitcom “The Cool Kids” and long-running competition show “Hell’s Kitchen” in place for Friday nights. Assuming all three make it to 2019-20, they’ll have to find new homes.
“Smackdown” debuted in April 1999 on UPN and aired on broadcast for 10 1/2 years. UPN and then The CW had the show through September 2008, then MyNetworkTV had rights for two years. The show jumped to Syfy in October 2010 and USA January 2016.
Recent airings of “Smackdown” have averaged a 0.8-0.9 rating among adults 18-49 and about 2.6 million viewers on USA.