The latest reports of WWE's intentions for SmackDown is contradiction at its greatest.
According to PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, WWE is looking to put more effort toward SmackDown and there has been consideration of expanding the show to three hours.
More television time doesn't equal more effort. If you want a better show, expanding it isn't the answer.
I completely agree with WWE putting more focus on the quality of its Friday night show on Syfy. Fans who have been watching WWE's product for seven years or less wouldn't know this, but there was once a time when more progression and entertainment was happening on SmackDown than Raw. In fact, sometimes both shows were equally entertaining.
Things weren't so bad “back in the day.”
The most common gripe I hear from wrestling fans regarding SmackDown is it's taped on Tuesday. This means you can read about what will happen via spoilers posted on the Internet. Popular opinion also claims the show has a lack of energy because it doesn't have a live, unpredictable feel.
Reading spoilers is a personal choice. Those who do it and complain already know what's going to happen.
I do agree there is a lack of energy to the show, especially compared to Raw. I also get annoyed with the canned-crowd audio edited in for SmackDown. The most irrelevant guys on the card get louder reactions than they ever would if they appeared on a live show. This would be fine except for the fact that the crowd sounds like WrestleMania but looks like it's watching a movie.
SmackDown won't go live unless it airs on Tuesday, which is when it gets produced. Doing live television Monday and then again on Friday is a production nightmare for the WWE crew. The networks decide when they want the program to air.
Based on audience demographic and content, it's been decided that SmackDown is best for Friday. It's a smart business decision. It tops anything else that is on Friday night.
SmackDown can be a taped show and still be a quality show.
A lot of repeat programming and matches take place on Friday after something similar was aired on Monday. Part of this is WWE trying to establish a story or character to the audience. The other part is laziness and a waste of talent or a crowded cracker jack creative staff.
The real problem with SmackDown is you can miss it and still be knowledgeable of WWE's content. Rarely does anything significant happen which is critical to the story told. If WWE wants to improve SmackDown, it should start with adding two more storylines regularly featured and build to a pay-per-view match.
Does WWE have enough legitimate talent on the roster for this? Does WWE have enough creative juice in the think tank for this? You would hope so, or why is it even bringing up the idea for another hour of programming? Sometimes we don't want the answers to our questions.
Let's go on the basis that there is enough talent not being fully utilized and that there are interesting stories to be told with them on WWE programming. I don't think WWE needs to formally bring back the brand extension where wrestlers would only appear on either Raw or SmackDown.
This is another topic where the opinions of the almighty hardcore fans amuse me. A cry for the brand extension to return after many years of crying for it to end.
WWE's attempt to manufacture competition internally with brand loyalty isn't needed. WWE shouldn't want brand loyalty. It should want company interest. Add two more regular weekly stories that get addressed, progressed and build to a payoff. The stories can appear on either Raw or SmackDown. Not having a brand extension gives creative freedom.
Perhaps the final Raw and SmackDown before a pay-per-view both feature a story or character. Perhaps some weeks will feature just a quick promo from a character because there is nothing else that needs to happen that week—just like a true soap opera with rotation and variety for the audience.
The result of this is more matches and stories to climax at a pay-per-view that people are paying a lot of money for every month. More stories told won't guarantee higher ratings or buys. However, it won't make the ratings or buys decrease more than they already are.
If WWE adds a third hour to SmackDown with no plan for better structured storytelling and use of time―I guarantee ratings will go down. I also guarantee the spoiler pages will just be that much more repetitive to read.