WWE Smackdown shifts to Fox; New network changes business model

WWE Smackdown shifts to Fox; New network changes business model - 25th May 2018


Television Broadcasting United States

Australia Wrestling Bitcoin Business Entertainment Sports

Advertising Promotions Contact Us

by Greg Tingle

The SmackDown show may be named after a catch phrase from wrestler and actor living legend, Dwyane 'The Rock' Johnson, but It Doesn't Matter (as The Rock) would say, that the inspirational Johnson is nowhere to be seen on the current WWE television programs. But, he is on the WWE's own WWE Network, for about $9.99 per month, after the free trial. SmackDown is a winning television program, and perhaps it's no coincidence that it's named in connection with 'The Rock'... just don't tell 'The Miz' that, who pitches himself as a Hollywood A - Lister! Long story.

Down to business

Earlier this week it was announced that Rupert Murdoch's (soon to be more associated with son Lachlan) Fox, had presented a $1 billion deal for the rights to WWE Smackdown, which currently resides on the USA network. According to numerous media reports, both mainstream and wrestling 'dirt sheets', the deal will take effect in October 2019.

This acquisition gives this particular weekly WWE show an opportunities to showcase its wares to the largest potential audience its ever had in its illustrious and sometimes controversial history. Gone is most of the extreme angles and very course language, but the in ring action and athleticism is at an all time high, something legends such as the late Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski and Roy Heffernan acknowledged, with Hef also praising Hulk Hogan's flamboyant style in addition to the way WWE top brass Vince McMahon had transformed the professional wrestling industry. Did we mention, Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) is aiming to return to his home - the WWE in the near future, but more on that in an upcoming follow-up story.

Even when Smackdown was airing on UPN/The CW, it never had the potential to muster the kind of viewership it does with a Fox broadcast.

But, while WWE is celebrating the deal and cash injection the development also cements the future of the “New Fox.”

A name birthed by the company itself, “New Fox” is what will become of the assets not purchased in the pending merger with Disney (or Comcast potentially). Included in the remaining company will be the likes of Fox Sports, the 20th Century Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles and, most importantly in this case, Fox Broadcasting. An interesting deal in the MMA world also recently occurred - UFC doing a mega deal with ESPN +. Get this.. a 5 year deal with $150 million per year...That new contract includes 42 events per year overall with 30 appearing on ESPN. WWE vs UFC has taken on a new meaning. There's some kind of cross over audience between UFC and WWE, but just how much is often debated. Essentially, both compete for action and sports lovers, who enjoy combat sports. It's also a part of the battle for eyeballs, hearts and advertising dollars.

More FOX detail

Numerous media outlets have stated that in order to avoid any potential anti-trust issues, Murdoch held on to control of the Fox Broadcasting network in the WWE SmackDown deal. The Fox network is going to need content - the broadest content possible.

Once the ink is dry on the contract, Fox will no longer be in possession of an in-house television studio. This essential means it won’t be able to keep low rating content on the air with the hopes of generating revenue back through international syndication and streaming. The only opportunity to make money commencing in 2019 will be through ad-buys.

Selected Fox programs will continue, like The Simpsons, but the real name of the game here is broad-audience. Specifically, a broad audience that still watches live television. It's been suggested that this is the reason Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing was revived for next season. It’s an opportunity for Fox to go after the jugular of the Roseanne market that spiked in Nielsen ratings this past season.

However, while scripted programming is great, the real money is going to be made in sports and live events. This is where Smackdown is expected to prosper. Sports business is big business, and continued strong storylines week in and week out are known to be a winning formula in television.

WWE is a unique animal that finds a way to mix the intensity of live sports with the drama of scripted storytelling. It’s exactly the kind of programming New Fox will be looking for. With all the talk and referencing of animals, both the late George 'The Animal' Steele and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan / The Weasel, would be proud. Speaking of animals, are we the only ones who fondly remember the Jake 'The Snake" Roberts vs Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat feud? Animal gimmicks yes, but the professional wrestling action and angles executed were just unreal.

Smackdown can bring in the middle-of-the-country crowd Fox intends to target. More importantly, it can bring in the younger viewers of the niche. The younger viewers that might not tune in for a new episode of Last Man Standing.

Don't forget, Smackdown airs year round. There's no off season like NFL, a topic that is debated as the wrestlers get limited time to rest and recover, unless they get doctors permission. It will be a show unlike any other on broadcast television. A prime-time sports soap opera that never ends. This will give (New) Fox a fighting chance when the NFL isn’t in-season and MLB post-season isn’t hustling a big game like a first World Series win for the Cubs.

The mega deal puts Fox in the Vince McMahon business. McMahon is currently looking for a home for his upcoming XFL relaunch that fans and media are hotly anticipating, and with McMahon and son-in-law, Triple H, you know they always have a side project or two in the works, be it a WWE NXT like venue, or maybe even a new version of the most loved WWF talk show TNT (Tuesday Night Titans) from the 80s, which is now available on the WWE Network.

As Mr Mahon often says, anything can happen in the WWE, and Stephanie McMahon would go on to say, "We are in the business of putting smiles on faces".

In this case of broadcasting network - WWE sports entertainment, clearly the McMahon and Murdoch family are all smiling for the meantime, and UFC's Dana White and their ESPN associates are also smiling.

Lot's of happy people in the sports and entertainment world at the moment. For big media's case, they better hope and pray that the wresting - sports entertainment fans and advertisers keep smiling. Apparently there's big money to be made out of smiles.

And in the blue corner WWE legend Mick Foley is repeating his catch phrase, Have A Nice Day!



Fox's Rupert Murdoch and sons


WWE YouTube. Just how much free content should the WWE give away?


Vince McMahon in the studio circa 1984

XFL mark 2. Via Alpha Entertainment McMahon is aiming to get it a major broadcast deal.

TNT (Tuesday Night Titans). A long time favorite of WWF (WWE) fans in the mid 80s



Rowdy Roddy Piper and Vince McMahon



Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is his WWE SmackDown days. A decade plus prior to his Seven Bucks Productions and the like


Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and their Seven Bucks Productions team will soon be launching The Titan Games on NBC. NBC (The Peacock) was once the home of WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event, that drew world beating ratings in the 80's and 90's. Johnson is currently working on Fast spin off Hobbs and Shaw, due for release next year. Vin Diesel will not be appearing! Universal Studios is understood to be the backing distributor.


Saturday Night's Main Event


Mike 'The Miz' Mizanin considers himself the star of SmackDown. Miz is a favorite of the WWE audience and top brass in the company but it wasn't always that way. Times change. Miz might agree with the phrase 'Happy wife, happy life'. Wife Maryse recently gave birth. The power couple will star in upcoming series Miz & Mrs. which will be broadcast on USA. Could Total Divas and Total Bellas be in jeopardy? Hey, just asking the question.


WWE Studios is always looking for a new hit and money maker