Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smackdown gets a new home

2 years ago, World Wrestling Entertainment's Friday Night Smackdown was cancelled by the CW network because its programming head, Dawn Ostroff, decided it didn't fit with the female-centric programming she wanted on the network. It stood out like a sore thumb amidst a program roster that included Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, America's Next Top Model, and the revival of 90210 (formerly Beverly Hills 90210), and Ostroff didn't want it anymore.

The opportunity was there for Chairman Vince McMahon to consolidate all of his prime-time programming under the NBC-Universal umbrella. Monday Night Raw is on its 2nd tour of duty on USA. ECW, since cancelled, was on SyFy (then still Sci-Fi). Unfortunately, common sense didn't figure into the equation, as per usual, and McMahon decided to bring his Friday show to the beleagured MyNetwork TV, a sister network to Fox. Never mind the reputed hatred between McMahon and News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch. McMahon needed, he felt, a broadcast network home for one of his shows. He didn't want them all on cable. Not just yet, anyway.

Warp ahead to the present. MyNetwork TV is on life support, with Smackdown the only 1st-run series on the roster. It was pretty much a given that McMahon would have to pull stakes and move his franchise again, but where?

That question was answered earlier today when the WWE issued a press release confirming and verifying a news report in the Los Angeles Times. Smackdown is finally joining Raw as part of the NBC-Universal family, and will be on SyFy beginning October 1. Early reports claimed that NXT, which just launched February 23, would be cancelled, but WWE is hoping to keep the show going by relocating it to another network, say for example another NBC-U net, like Bravo, or consigning it to being online-only on their website, which is how they slowly killed off two previous series, Velocity and Heat. Moving NXT to Bravo, which has a few other reality shows on their roster, such as Top Chef, would make the most amount of sense. But, remember, common sense is a foreign commodity rarely found in the WWE boardroom.

To make room, SyFy is moving their Friday science fiction/fantasy/drama block to Tuesdays. Apparently, paying WWE 13 million dollars isn't enough to convince either side that now would be the best time to make Smackdown live every week, rather than on 3 days tape delay, which is the current business model for the series.

But, again, McMahon cannot consolidate everything under one roof. WWE Superstars, revived last year and placed on WGN America, isn't as readily available as its companion series, and it would be in WWE's best interest to pursue the option of buying out their contract with WGN America to get the programming consolidation that would work best for both the company, its primary corporate partner, and its fans.

It's a win-win situation across the board anyway, because in addition to the near-complete consolidation of programming, McMahon is guaranteeing viewers 52 weeks of Smackdown annually, something he couldn't do as long as it remained on a broadcast network whose affiliates are also committed to sports teams such as the New York Yankees and will delay or pre-empt Smackdown while baseball and/or basketball are in season. I've read where SyFy isn't in as many homes as MyNetwork TV, but that could change before October 1, when Smackdown makes its SyFy debut to launch its 12th season.

It may have been 2 years late, but it's the right move after all.

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