In a major move, WWE is reportedly set to shift its weekly SmackDown show over to the FOX broadcast network, and air it on Friday nights. It'll be the first time in the modern era that a pro wrestling program has aired weekly on one of the big four networks, and points toward the channel's planned changeover to being mostly focused on live content like news and sports after the completion of Disney's buyout of FOX's production studios.
From 1985 to 1992, WWE aired Saturday Night's Main Event - on NBC for most of its run, ending on FOX - on broadcast TV, but even that was only an occasional thing, not weekly. SmackDown has technically aired weekly on broadcast networks, but only small ones like the now-defunct UPN, its successor The CW, and My Network TV, which barely shows any original programming. WWE landing on FOX is a really big deal, and it'll be interesting to see what kind of ratings wrestling draws in primetime on such a large platform.
The big jump from current home USA to FOX won't be without further changes though, according to The Wrap. When SmackDown arrives on FOX in the fall of 2019 - that's when its deal with USA expires - the show will reportedly be moving to Friday nights. While SmackDown has aired on Friday nights before during its cable tenure, the episodes were pre-taped on Tuesdays. That changed when SmackDown went live on Tuesday every week in 2016, at the behest of USA. One wonders if this will lead to SmackDown's return to a taped format.
SmackDown finding a new home wasn't entirely unexpected, as recent reports have suggested that USA is no longer interested in hanging onto both weekly WWE shows. They want to keep flagship program Monday Night Raw - and are said to be paying a hefty fee in order to do so - but passed on renewing SmackDown. This created an opening for FOX to swoop in and snatch it up. While SmackDown might not be Raw in the ratings, it's still one of the biggest draws on basic cable. Whether that draw will translate over to the broadcast realm remains to be seen, although ratings expectations on Friday nights aren't usually that high.
One wonders what this move might mean for Last Man Standing, The Cool Kids, and Hell's Kitchen, which will occupy the FOX schedule for the fall 2018-spring 2019 TV season. While those shows could be moved to a new night in fall 2019, that would necessitate that three other shows be canceled to make room. As FOX continues its march toward a post-Disney revamp though, expect more and more of the network's scripted series to be axed.
Source: The Wrap