WWE confirmed Saturday that it will resume live airings of Raw, SmackDown and NXT next week amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ESPN's Marc Raimondi, a WWE spokesperson said the following regarding the decision in a statement:
"We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times. We are producing content on a closed set with only essential personnel in attendance following appropriate guidelines while taking additional precautions to ensure the health and wellness of our performers and staff. As a brand that has been woven into the fabric of society, WWE and its Superstars bring families together and deliver a sense of hope, determination and perseverance."
Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that the decision to return to live shows was made after filming SmackDown and 205 Live at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, on Friday night.
F4WOnline (h/t WrestlingInc.com's Joshua Gagnon) added that returning to the live format may have been done to satisfy television contracts with NBC Universal and Fox.
WWE is contractually obligated to air a certain amount of Raw, SmackDown and NXT episodes live per year, and it is reportedly not permitted to air more than three taped episodes of Raw per year on USA Network. If WWE were to exceed that number, it could lead to alterations to its television contracts.
With a complete elimination of house shows and no live gate for events since fans cannot attend, WWE's television revenue is key.
WWE had been airing taped content in recent weeks, including both nights of WrestleMania 36 last weekend. Per Raimondi, Monday's episode of Raw will mark WWE's return to live shows.
Both Raw and SmackDown are expected to emanate from the WWE Performance Center, while NXT will occur at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. No fans will be permitted at any of the events.
WWE has continued to produce content despite the fact that a stay-at-home order is in effect in Florida through April 30. Essential businesses have been allowed to continue running during that time.
WWE confirmed to Satin on Saturday that an "on-screen talent who is not a member of the roster" tested positive for COVID-19 after having dinner with friends who work in the health care industry on March 26, following WWE's filming that day.
WWE noted that the person went into quarantine and has since recovered. WWE also reported that the person did not come into contact with any WWE personnel after contacting the health care workers.
As part of a statement, WWE called it "low risk to WWE talent and staff" and intends to move forward with the plan to air live shows.
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