I may be late to the party (sorry the WWE announced this on my work/softball night) but the WWE announced today that they will be moving Smackdown to Tuesday nights on the USA Network, and that it will be live. They also announced the return of the brand split. Here is the official press release:
SMACKDOWN GOING LIVE ON USA NETWORK BEGINNING
TUESDAY, JULY 19
— SMACKDOWN to Feature Distinct Roster and Storylines —
— Conspiracy Thriller ‘SHOOTER’ to Premiere Immediately Following
SMACKDOWN on July 19 at 10/9c —
NEW YORK and STAMFORD, CONN – May 25, 2016 — USA Network, the exclusive cable home to WWE’s marquee properties, announced that its weekly SMACKDOWN show will air live – for the first time ever – and move to Tuesdays every week beginning July 19 from 8-10PM ET/PT. With the SMACKDOWN move, USA Network will now offer five hours of live WWE programming a week, including the weekly three-hour live WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW (airing Mondays from 8-11PM ET/PT), with each show featuring a distinct cast, unique storylines and a dedicated writing team.
In 2016 to date, MONDAY NIGHT RAW is averaging 4.011MM total viewers, 1.873MM P25-54 and 1.846MM P18-49 L7, and SMACKDOWN in its current time slot is averaging 2.674MM P2+, 1.136MM P25-54, and 1.058MM P18-49+ L7, making USA the #1 cable entertainment network across the key demos on Monday and Thursday nights. In 2015, the two programs combined reached over 50MM viewers. Both shows will now air live 52 weeks a year.
“The fan base for our WWE shows is one of the most passionate and engaged audiences in all of entertainment,” said Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “There is a huge appetite among our viewers for live programming, and the ability to move SMACKDOWN to a live format brings a new level of excitement and helps truly eventize this every week.”
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” said WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
With 874 original episodes, SMACKDOWN is the second longest-running weekly episodic program in U.S. television history, only behind MONDAY NIGHT RAW at 1,200 episodes.
Beginning July 19, immediately following SMACKDOWN, USA Network will premiere the new original drama SHOOTER, starring Ryan Phillippe (“Secrets and Lies”), at 10/9c. SHOOTER is based on the best-selling Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, Point of Impact, and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg. The series follows the courageous journey of Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after he learns about a plot to kill the President. Mark Wahlberg (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Entourage”) of Closest to the Hole Productions serves as executive producer along with Stephen Levinson (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Ballers”) of Leverage Entertainment; Lorenzo di Bonaventura (“Transformers,” “The Real O’Neals”) and John Hlavin (“The Shield”). The series is a co-production between Paramount Television and Universal Cable Productions.
JC’s Take: I wrote about what a possible brand split would look like a little over a week ago here: https://htcwrestling.com/2016/05/16/jcs-top-rope-report-what-a-wwe-brand-split-would-look-like/
I’ll be curious to see how this works with RAW staying at 3 hours. The rumor is that there will be 2 separate Champions for each brand. I’d be okay with that as long as they treat the Titles as equal. I say that the Tag Champions and the Women’s Champion can appear on both shows, but again that is not where the rumors are leaning right now. It is still a fluid situation and I’m sure we will find out more in the coming weeks. With the roster getting fully healthy, this would be the perfect time for this.