×

WWE’s ‘Smackdown’ Will Move to Live Broadcast on USA (EXCLUSIVE)

USA is about to flip WWE fans’ expectations for one of the wrestling programs it airs every week.

Smackdown,” which moved to the NBCUniversal-owned outlet from sister Syfy in January, will be broadcast live for two hours every week starting Tuesday, July 19, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., resulting in five hours of live WWE programming on the network each week.

“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,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, in a prepared statement.

The move reflects a growing desire by TV networks to find more ways to air content that needs to be seen as it airs, rather than days or weeks later via a DVR or video on demand. Networks like NBC and Fox have turned live broadcasts of favorite Broadway plays into high-rated events, and many broadcast and cable outlets have placed more emphasis on securing rights to top sports events like the Olympics or the NCAA men’s basketball championships.

Viewers who tune in to these live “spectaculars” can’t zap the commercials that support the programs, and marketers seem willing to pay a premium to appear in such stuff. Last season, NBC even ran a live, weekly program in which Neil Patrick Harris attempted zany stunts, did musical numbers and clowned around with celebrity guests.

With the three-hour “Raw” airing on Monday, USA will feature five hours of live WWE wrestling each week. Both programs will air live 52 weeks a year.

The debut of a live “Smackdown” comes as two of the WWE’s biggest attractions, John Cena and Seth Rollins, are returning to competition from injuries. And the company is expected to create strong points of differentiation between “Smackdown” and USA’s other live program, “Monday Night Raw,” according to the WWE. A draft will be held before the “Smackdown” launch date to determine which wrestlers on the company’s talent roster will be assigned to which program. Each show is expected to feature separate cast, plots and writing teams.

“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” said Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE, in a statement. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”

WWE and NBCU renewed a programming deal in 2014 that kept the shows on the air. In 2015, the two companies arranged a closer relationship to market both “Smackdown” and “Raw,” in hopes of capturing interest from a broader array of advertisers. Season to date, “Smackdown” has captured n an average of nearly 1.06 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 on a live-plus-seven-day basis, while “Raw” has attracted an average of about 1.85 million.

More TV

  • Jenji Kohan with two-time Emmy winner

    Inside 'Orange Is the New Black's' Unlikely Journey to Become Netflix's Most-Watched Original

    Before “Netflix and chill” entered the cultural lexicon, before the streaming platform won its first Emmy, before it started inking deals with major showrunners, Netflix in the early 2010s was testing out a hypothesis about the public’s appetite for premium-quality television shows on the internet. It had recently recovered from the Qwikster debacle — an [...]

  • John Malone

    Liberty Global and Vodafone's $21.5 Billion Cable Deal Cleared by European Authorities

    The European Commission has approved Vodafone’s $21.5 billion deal for a raft of Liberty Global assets in Europe, with conditions attached. The commission had investigated the deal on the grounds that it could reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. It concluded, however, that the deal could go ahead with conditions. These include [...]

  • Harlots

    ITV Takes Majority Stake in ‘Harlots’ Producer Monumental Television

    ITV Studios now has a controlling stake in Monumental Television, the production company that makes Hulu series “Harlots” and that was founded by Oscar-nominated film producers Alison Owen and Debra Hayward. ITV first bought into the company in 2015 and has upped its stake from 26% to 51%. Julian Bellamy, managing director of ITV Studios, [...]

  • Fremantle Owner RTL Group Forms New

    Fremantle Owner RTL Group Forms New Unscripted Formats Unit

    RTL has created a new unit that will work up unscripted formats exclusively for broadcasters and streaming services in the group. Fremantle, which is a major force in unscripted, is part of the RTL Group, and makes shows for RTL and third parties. The new Format Creation Group will develop ideas exclusively for in-house outlets. [...]

  • Pennyworth

    TV Review: 'Pennyworth'

    Is there a law that says there must always be a certain number of Batman properties on air at all times? Just as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” films germinated a fandom that seemed to demand not merely a Ben Affleck Batman but also two different Joker-based franchise, so too did the conclusion of Fox’s “Gotham” [...]

  • She's Gotta Have It Review

    'She's Gotta Have It' Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix

    Netflix has canceled Spike Lee’s series adaptation of “She’s Gotta Have It.” The show ran for two seasons at the streamer. Lee is expected to shop the series to other outlets. The news comes less than two months after the release of Season 2 back in May. “Spike Lee is one of the greatest filmmakers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content