Back up the trucks, WWE SmackDown will be moving networks once again. For the first time in WWE SmackDown history, the program will move off of broadcast television to the SyFy Channel. WWE SmackDown will remain in the Friday night 8 PM time slot, but will anyone watch?
The news broke on Monday through an article in the LA Times. The article reports that SyFy will pay the WWE close to $30 million for a year’s worth of SmackDown episodes. The price tag is an increase from the $20 million that the WWE received from My Network TV. Boy, Dixie Carter must be drooling at those numbers.
I also think that there is a bit of a perception hit here that the WWE will take. When I think of the SyFy channel, I think of a pretty insignificant cable channel. To me, the channel comes off as something that appeals to only a niche audience. SyFy is also not an easy channel to find. A casual fan could stumble across WWE SmackDown now on My Network TV a lot easier than they will on the SyFy channel. My Network TV’s channel is usually located between 5 and 20 on cable systems, whereas the SyFy channel can go all of the way up into triple digits. I don’t care how you slice it, but that is a big deal.
I would also venture to guess that the move would give NBC the rights to air SmackDown on the WWE block on the UHD channel on the weekends. I can’t imagine that there are big numbers there, but every weekend UHD airs a block of WWE RAW and WWE NXT. This is possibly something they can market a bit more having the three flagship shows on the channel.
On the wrestling front, the announcement comes just two weeks before the WWE Draft. I think we will be able to tell right away how seriously the WWE is taking the move come draft day. If WWE SmackDown gets loaded up with big names, that would tell me that the WWE will be taking this move seriously and trying to beef up the show. On the other hand, if WWE SmackDown is raided and someone like the Undertaker moves to RAW, that would tell me that this move is indeed a holding place until the new WWE channel is launched. SmackDown’s past move to a new network didn’t impact that year’s WWE Draft much at all.
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