WWE Rumors: SmackDown Could Add a 3rd Hour for Fox, 'Gain Upwards of $50M'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2019

Retired American professional wrester Bryan Lloyd Danielson, whose WWE ring name is Daniel Bryan, watches during the second period of an NHL hockey game between the New York Islanders and the Anaheim Ducks, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in New York. Danielson is now the on-screen general manager of the professional wrestling television program SmackDown Live. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

WWE and Fox are considering the possibility of adding a third hour to SmackDown Live when it moves to the network in October.

Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio said WWE would gain an additional $50 million in annual revenue from Fox for the extra programming, per Robert Gunier of Wrestling Inc. The plan would be to air the first two hours of SmackDown on Fox's flagship network before transitioning the third to FS1. Fox does not program past the 10 p.m. hour.

Fox and FS1 will need even more combat sports programming after losing UFC rights to ESPN. The network will air SmackDown Live on Fridays—at least temporarily—and is reportedly pushing a more "sports-orientedproduct.

No one knows what that will entail, and WWE's move to network TV will be a true adjustment given its long-term home in the more lax cable environment. While WWE's programming has been PG for some time, it will now be subject to broadcast regulations.

The idea of a third hour will likely lead to a collective groan among fans. Raw has been three hours since 2012, and while it's created more revenue for WWE, the creative strain is apparent every week.

SmackDown has been an unquestioned qualitative success since becoming live in 2016, in part because of its two-hour format. Things are brisker, there is less filler content, and there is an emphasis on more in-ring storytelling—something it appears Fox executives would prefer.

Adding a third hour to SmackDown could in essence turn it into another Raw, which is by far the least consistent product WWE churns out weekly quality-wise. The layer of a third hour also moving to an entirely different network could create a hassle for viewers that makes the whole endeavor a questionable (at best) decision.