In October 2010, WWE SmackDown left MyNetwork TV for the SyFy network, where it's been airing ever since. Similar to the USA Network, SyFy is also under the NBC umbrella, so the transition to the new network allowed WWE to promote its blue brand on Raw as well.
However, one would argue that Friday nights haven't been the same since the end of the brand split in August 2011. Most of the stars who appear on SmackDown on a regular basis can be seen every week on Raw as well, prompting a number of viewers stop tuning in Friday nights.
Not only that, but WWE diminishes the blue brand by holding rematches on Raw, basically giving the average viewer the idea that nothing happens on SmackDown that you won't see on Raw. The fact SmackDown is taped Tuesdays and airs Fridays also doesn't help matters, as any member of the WWE Universe can easily read the spoilers without having to watch the show.
In SmackDown's defense, however, the quality of the blue brand has improved immensely in recent months. The in-ring action has been top-notch and most of the matches have received rave reviews from various fans.
SmackDown is also a great place for mid-card talents to shine and develop, as it wasn't too long ago that Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow closed the show. Not in a million years would that sort of thing happen on Raw.
The ratings aren't necessarily an issue, either, as they've managed to stay rather consistent in recent years. However, I can't help but think that SmackDown would get much more attention if it were broadcast live on the USA Network.
It was recently reported that SmackDown's contract with SyFy will expire at the end of next month. That being said, there's no better time for the blue brand to jump ship to a new network than now.
If you can recall, WWE held a Christmas edition of SmackDown in Decmeber 2010 on the USA Network. It ultimately received a 2.5 rating, which is considered relatively high for SmackDown nowadays.
There have been a number of SuperSmackDown live specials over the last two years, but none were able to pop that big of a rating. This would be one reason to switch networks.
Furthermore, there have been several pleas by fans over the years to permanently move SmackDown to Tuesday nights (the night it's usually taped). I personally would rather see SmackDown stay put in its Friday night slot to avoid burning out the average viewer.
Imagine watching a three-hour pay-per-view followed by a three-hour episode of Raw the next night and then a two-hour episode of SmackDown on Tuesday. That is an excessive amount of programming, and that is not even counting the one-hour edition of WWE Main Event on Wednesday.
Going live Fridays is indeed possible, as SmackDown's debut on SyFy on October 1, 2010 was broadcast live. This might affect WWE's live events for that day, but that shouldn't be a major concern.
I'm not saying that airing SmackDown on the USA Network will automatically make it Raw's equal in terms of viewership, but it'll be a step in the right direction. The blue brand is highly underrated and has been overlooked by officials for far too long.
If you aren't already tuning into SmackDown on a weekly basis, I strongly suggest you do. It features some of the best wrestling you'll ever see on WWE programming and the two hours tend to fly by.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on how you believe WWE should handle Friday Night SmackDown going forward. As always, your criticism and overall feedback is welcomed and greatly appreciated.