On July 19th of 2018 the brands of Raw and Smackdown LIVE will have been split for 2 years. It is crazy to think that it has already been that long. However, the crossover of audiences for each program has not been as successful as WWE would have hoped. Monday Night Raw continues to be built as the TOP show, while Smackdown LIVE sits quietly in the corner as the “B-Show.” The ratings reflect that, according to Nielsen the May 22nd Smackdown LIVE did a .68 nationwide live rating, the lowest since the new brand split. That did not stop Fox from announcing that they would be purchasing the television rights to Smackdown LIVE for $1 Billion dollars. That’s billion with a B.
Even though ratings are not what they used to be, given the factors of social media, multiple streaming platforms and other “Real Sport” options like the NBA playoffs, Fox has won themselves a golden goose. WWE is a money maker, plain and simple. This goose may even make Friday night network programming something worth viewing again. It was also announced that Smackdown LIVE will in-fact still be live, but will move to Friday Nights, away from it’s home on Tuesday’s. The smart fans out there will now go through a deluge of reasons why this will hurt not only WWE but wrestling. The smart guys will say that with all this money WWE will bleed indie promotions dry and take away all their top talent. Even go as far as to say that they will be WAY TOO “PG Era,” for our liking? The product has never been more mainstream, yet it still appeals to fans of all eras. The peak of my fandom was in the late 90s during the attitude era. Sure today’s WWE can’t show as much skin and Stone Cold Steve Austin isn’t giving Vince McMahon a beer bath and a stunner for his troubles. This WWE is a better overall product with now a multitude of resources at their disposal. It will even get the boost from Fox’s partnerships with the NFL and MLB garnering promotional spots during live broadcasts of games. Tell me you wouldn’t love to see Braun Strowman and Aaron Judge doing a cross-over to promote Smackdown LIVE?
With this bold move by WWE I believe the network change will legitimize the brand split. Think about it, you split the brands to give your audience options and create competition with yourself. The problem right now is both shows are on the same network, USA, plus they are running back to back nights. It does not give the audience enough to sink their teeth into, heck they even promote each other’s show on there’s. This move gives the illusion that there are two different shows to choose from. The weekly viewers will understand that this is a cash grab move, but can you blame them? Now Raw can dominate the cable side of NBC Universal and Smackdown LIVE will make give Friday Nights on the Fox network the kickstart it needs. Two shows, on two different networks, under the same corporate umbrella is the perfect move at the right time to keep this brand split together.