WWE Smackdown is moving to Fox starting next fall. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported on Monday that the broadcaster has acquired the rights to the WWE product in what’s described by a source as a “massive” deal.
The deal is the end result of a major shakeup in WWE broadcast partners after NBC Universal decided to focus more on Raw, which has aired on USA Network since 2005.
Rovell reported that Fox will air the weekly show starting in October of 2019. While few details were in Rovell’s initial report, The Wrap reported on Monday that the move to Fox will also move the show to Friday nights.
Rovell’s ESPN report did include some details about the chase for WWE’s two live broadcasts, which has been ongoing for some time now. There were earlier reports that Smackdown might move to a three-hour show, but no details on that were initially given.
As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, NBC Universal declined its right of first refusal to hit the numbers that WWE proposed on “SmackDown.” NBC instead focused its efforts on “Monday Night Raw.”
With live TV viewed as a prized commodity in the era of DVR and on-demand and “SmackDown Live” straddling the worlds of scripted and sports TV, Fox greatly valued the opportunity to pursue one of the WWE’s signature programs.
“SmackDown Live” has averaged 2.59 million viewers per week in 2018, while “Raw” has averaged about 3 million viewers.
No true specifics of the deal were reported just yet, but the timeline is officially in place for one of WWE’s two weekly live shows to switch networks.
Update: The Hollywood Reporter said Monday that the Fox deal for Smackdown is worth more than $1 billion over five years.
Fox will be the anticipated home of WWE SmackDown Live in a massive new five-year deal worth more than $1 billion, sources close to the negotiations tell The Hollywood Reporter. The new deal, which is nearing completion and is worth $205 million annually, is expected to begin in October 2019, and will mark a three-fold increase over what NBCUniversal is currently paying WWE to air SmackDown on its USA network.
THR noted that a third-party bidder reportedly offered more, but WWE was swayed by Fox’s already impressive sports portfolio, which includes the NFL and Major League Baseball.