‘WWE Smackdown’ Moving to USA Network
WWE Smackdown continues to be functionally unkillable. Debuting in 1999, the show has bounced from UPN to the CW to MYNetwork TV and then to SyFy. But now, it’s headed to yet another new home: USA Network.
USA announced that Smackdown would debut on their network in the first quarter of 2016, as part of an expanded partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment. USA Network is already bringing back reality competition series Tough Enough on June 23, while Monday Night Raw continues to be one of the Top 10 shows on cable television, over 22 years into its run.
“WWE consistently delivers one of the largest and most socially engaged live audiences in entertainment, and we’re excited to expand our long-standing relationship and be the true cable home for the WWE fan,” said USA Network President Chris McCumber in the official press release.
Of course, this isn’t exactly a huge move, since Syfy is a cousin of USA Network, so WWE is staying in the NBCUniversal family. And it makes sense for all of WWE’s flagship shows to be on the same network. At the very least, it makes more sense than moving it to the WWE Network, a la NXT, since WWE still needs the ad revenue Smackdown draws. The show is popular among youth audiences as well as Hispanic audiences (hence the constant attempts in recent years to find a new Latino star to replace Rey Mysterio), so it’s not all that surprising that WWE wants to keep the show accessible to the largest possible television audience, particularly considering that, with just over a million subscribers, WWE Network can’t really break even if they add the full expense of running Smackdown on their own. They need the financial aid of a major network to make Smackdown cost efficient. Otherwise, there’s no point to keep the show going. Then again, the show has become so irrelevant in recent years, particularly in the era of three-hour Raws, that I feel it’s mostly being kept alive by inertia. But that’s neither here nor there, I guess. As long as the show draws a respectable audience, I’m sure there’s always going to be a network somewhere that’ll be willing to pay for the rights.