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It was recently reported that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Fox were finalizing a deal that would air “SmackDown Live” on Fox starting in 2019. In addition to moving to a different station, the deal will also move the blue brand back to Friday nights.
In terms of business, the move saw WWE’s stock rise by more than 12%. However, to the more casual fan, what does this mean in terms of content? What will the future hold for the blue brand?
One possibility that could exist is WWE allows for a more mature rating. Since 2008, WWE has been PG rated programming as an attempt to distance themselves from earlier, edgier content as to attract a young generation of wrestling fans to the promotion. All the while it led to speculation that it was an attempt to improve WWE’s public image as then CEO, Linda McMahon, prepared to run for public office.
Fox programming historically has allowed for more edgier content including blood, violence and some sexual nature, the very things WWE had been trying to distance themselves from since 2008. To allow WWE to return to a more PG-14 status could allow for a more toned down version of the Attitude Era. WWE has leaned more towards this type of programming by showing some blood, it could be more apparent when the switch is made.
Another possibility that could exist is more independent wrestlers decide to take their talents to the Stamford based company. While New Japan Wrestling and Ring of Honor are two of WWE’s biggest competitors, the lure of a world-wide prime-time spot could be too much for talent to pass up. Add to that fact how big the money could get and we could see WWE win any bidding war they please.
This would leave the question of what happens with the relationship between the USA Network and WWE. As of now, WWE’s Monday Night RAW will continue to air every Monday night. However, all it would take is one good run on Fox for WWE to consider bringing the red brand over to the company and leaving it’s home of nearly 20 years. If this happens WWE would be on a much higher platform, but it would create another reaction.
There’s already some speculation that the USA Network is looking to replace “SmackDown Live” once the move is made. This includes the possibility of Impact Wrestling coming over to the Tuesday night slot. Should they get another promotion that’s behind WWE, it would potentially create another ratings war. A war like that would help launch a company to prominence. Just like when WWE kicked off “Monday Night Raw” to compete with World Championship Wrestling’s “Monday Nitro”. Impact’s former owners, Total Nonstop Action, tried to launch one but it only lasted ten weeks. Challenging the smaller of two shows could be a good thing companies do as it would create competition.
The last question remaining is how this would effect the other big networks (NBC, CBS, Disney). While NBC holds the rights to WWE specials, the move to Fox would not only change that, but it would mean that there would be competition in terms of sports. This could open the possibility of NBC trying to acquire a New Japan Wrestling’s television contract or CBS going after WhatCulture wrestling. This would ultimately saturate the market and make the big companies fight for stakes in sports entertainment.
While it’s a long shot to predict any of this, it’s easy to see that the landscape of the business could be changing. WWE and Fox could make for a powerful partnership. The world of sports entertainment is about to receive a dose of adrenaline.