Over the last few years, the WWE has successfully lined up all of it's television properties to expire simultaneously, giving the company increased leverage to negotiate a massive increase in its annual TV rights fees. According to a report by Variety, they may be able to double the value of the contract.
One particularly juicy nugget in this report is the prospect of WWE moving SmackDown to a live show. While more expensive to produce, live programming is far more attractive to television executives. The simple fact that Internet news sites would be unable to report a show's episode before airing will bring higher ratings. This is what led to Nitro and Raw going live during the Monday Night Wars in the first place.
“The value of live content has gone from becoming important to essential,” says George Barrios, WWE’s chief strategy and financial officer. “As a network, if you don’t have live must-see content your existence comes into question.”
In the report, it says that were SmackDown to move to a live format, it would likely land on a new night. Originally broadcast on Thursday nights, SmackDown moved to Friday nights in 2005. With the move to the new date and the end of the brand extension, the ratings dipped. The show has bounced from the CW to MyNetworkTV to SyFy in this short time.
With the advent of the Raw SuperShow featuring all wrestlers and leaving key players like John Cena off SmackDown, the urgency to view the program has faded. While being a self-diagnosed wrestling addict, it is still difficult for me to develop the same anticipation for an episode of SmackDown as I do Raw. Rarely are major storylines developed on the program. While at one time I avoided spoilers, I've grown accustomed to reading the SmackDown report on Wednesday mornings to decide whether I watch the show Friday night.
Were WWE to move SmackDown to a new night, let's say Thursday, and shift to a live format, it would be high time to reconsider the brand extension. WWE's roster has bloated in the last five years through an infusion of indie stars and addition of NXT. A large, relatively directionless midcard is unable to develop with much of Monday nights dedicated to John Cena, Triple H and Michael Cole's obsession with cell phone technology.
Though the WWE did just unify the top championships, a split wouldn't come before WrestleMania. The prospects of two shows with thriving stars would go a long way to refreshing characters, feuds and storylines. While at one point there was great anticipation when major names from Raw and SmackDown would have backstage run-ins during joint shows, we now are numb to such interactions.
What say you? Would you be more interested in SmackDown were it live? Would they need to consider a brand extension?