Tuesday, October 10, 2023

SmackDown to USA, Raw and NXT to Leave: What Does This Mean for WWE and the Industry?

WWE has announced that SmackDown will move from FOX to USA Network in October 2024, while Raw and NXT will leave the network. This is a major shake-up for WWE, and it will be interesting to see what the implications are for its product and the wrestling industry. While it's unknown why SmackDown is moving to USA Network, a possibility is that WWE wants to reach a new audience with SmackDown. USA Network is a more general entertainment network than FOX, so SmackDown might attract new viewers by being on USA Network. Plus, WWE presents SmackDown as a family-friendly show, so it's a good fit for USA Network's audience. What surprises me though is that while FOX has a higher viewership, they have been paying WWE $205 million annually for rights to SmackDown, while USA Network will pay WWE $287 million, meaning that even though SmackDown is moving to a smaller network with a smaller potential viewership, WWE will be making more money.

The changes are sure to have a significant impact on WWE and it will be interesting to see how the company adapts to the new landscape, as well as how its programming will change as a result. One question is whether Raw and NXT will find new homes on another network(s) or if they will go to a streaming service. I think Raw and NXT will go to Disney, being that the company has close ties with WWE and reportedly has been interested in buying WWE in the past. Disney has a number of networks that are suitable for Raw and NXT, such as ESPN, FX, and Hulu.

And actually, Hulu currently does air episodes of Raw and NXT, although not live. If live Raw and NXT shows move to Hulu, it would be very similar to the recent new partnership between WWE and Abema in Japan, which involves WWE making its live content available exclusively via a streaming service.

WWE has set many standards that exist in the industry. After WWE began broadcasting wrestling shows on American television nationally in the 1970s, other promotions began doing the same. After WWE began utilizing pay-per-view, other promotions followed suit. If WWE chooses to, they could set a new standard by making streaming the main way for major promotions to broadcast their products, along with creating new and innovative ways to use streaming in the future. Last month, I commented that a way that independent promotions using streaming services could impact major promotions is by causing major promotions to partner with streaming services in order to reach a wider audience and generate new revenue streams, and now WWE has partnered with Abema in Japan. So it would not surprise me to see WWE choose Hulu or a different streaming service (such As Amazon Prime Video or Peacock) to be the new home for live Raw and NXT shows in 2024.

It may take some time before we have all the answers regarding how the changes will impact WWE. But this is a major shake-up for the company and I expect it to affect the rest of the industry as well. It will be interesting to see what happens, as WWE continues to be a major player in the wrestling industry for many years to come.

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