"Smackdown Live" will air on FOX in late 2019, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The TV giant acquired the popular WWE programming after NBC reportedly declined to match the wrestling organization's proposed numbers. NBC Universal has hosted the show since Oct. 2010.
The deal will reportedly begin next October. The Hollywood Reporter states this deal will cost three times what NBC is currently paying—it is a five-year contract worth more than $1 billion. NBC currently pays $205 million annually.
"Smackdown Live" has averaged 2.59 million viewers this year, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell, who notes that this move is representative of the industry's prioritization of live programming. "Smackdown Live" is one of the WWE's two weekly live shows; "Raw" is slightly more popular. "Raw" has aired on USA Network since Oct. 2005 (in addition to a run from 1993-2000).
Unsurprisingly, the WWE's stock has soared since the news broke.
WWE stock skyrocketing again, after news that Fox has agreed to pay to broadcast SmackDown Live. pic.twitter.com/Bl6mcTNFS4— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 21, 2018
The Hollywood Reporter states the WWE actually received a more lucrative offer from a third party, but the organization wanted to work with Fox, which also airs the NFL and MLB. This is big news for the WWE.
Weekly WWE programming in prime time on one of the four major networks is beyond massive. It means Smackdown promos will run on Fox NFL Sundays. It means network level rights fees. It means validation for the product in Hollywood circles. This is HUGE.— Andrew Goldstein (@AngeGold) May 21, 2018
Fox nuked their Friday lineup to make room for WWE and you still have people tweeting “YALL STILL WATCH WRESTLING?"— Justin Davis #PatekTeeth (@OGJOHNNY5) May 21, 2018
"Smackdown Live" has the sixth-biggest audience among cable originals, per The Hollywood Reporter.