Syfy pins ‘Friday Night Smackdown’

WWE series to premiere on cable network Oct. 1

World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Friday Night SmackDown” is moving to cable.

The weekly two-hour series, which currently serves as the linchpin of MyNetwork TV, will premiere on Syfy beginning Oct. 1. and fill the 8 p.m. timeslot.

“Caprica,” “Stargate Universe” and “Sanctuary” will now shift from Friday to Tuesday, as a result.

“SmackDown” has been on the air for 10 years, originally bowing on UPN before moving to the CW after the UPN-WB merger. It set up its ring on MyNetwork TV in October 2008 and is, by far, the most-watched show on the net.

But WWE had been looking for a more high-profile home for “SmackDown,” its second-most popular show behind “Monday Night Raw,” which airs on USA Network.

“With this move, WWE is thrilled to be expanding its long-standing relationship with the NBC Universal family,” WWE chairman Vince McMahon said.

Syfy is ponying up close to $30 million in an annual fee to land “SmackDown,” making the shift a hugely profitable one for the Connecticut-based WWE, considering MyNetwork paid around $15 million, sources close to the situation said.

Syfy was already in business with WWE, airing the company’s “NXT,” a recently revamped version of “ECW.” The hourlong show aired on Tuesday night, and like “ECW” was used as a vehicle to introduce new wrestlers that could migrate to WWE’s more high-profile shows and pay-per-views.

“NXT” will continue airing on Syfy through October when “SmackDown” launches. WWE is currently negotiating with other networks to find “NXT” a new home.

With overall numbers up 22% in year-to-year comparisons, sources say MyNetwork decided it was more cost efficient to drop wrestling after two seasons and add an offnet show to Fridays instead of reupping with WWE’s grapplers. “SmackDown” has seen 6% a ratings decline in overall viewers and 13% in 18-49.

Minus “Smackdown,” which was MyNetwork’s most-watched show with 3.4 million viewers and 1.4 million in the 18-49 demo, programming service has seen numbers improve for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” on Mondays and “The Unit” on Wednesdays. “The Unit” will finish off its run in the next few months and a soon-to-be-announced drama will fill its place.

On Tuesday, 8-10 p.m. timeslot is filled with “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” and “Deal or No Deal.”