WWE’s “Smackdown” is going live, and it’s switching nights in the process.
Beginning on July 19, the “Monday Night Raw” compliment will take place on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m., and feature its own distinct cast, unique storylines, and dedicated writing team. A live-TV draft will take place sometime between now and then, which in the past has been a big hit for the company.
Previously, “Smackdown” had aired on Thursday nights, though it was not live. Matches were shot during other live event tapings, and repackaged for the “Smackdown” brand. This usually removed any real drama from those face-offs, as anything of note would have been spoiled by and for the hungry WWE Universe.
“The fan base for our WWE shows is one of the most passionate and engaged audiences in all of entertainment,” said Chris McCumber, president, Entertainment Networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “There is a huge appetite among our viewers for live programming, and the ability to move ‘Smackdown’ to a live format brings a new level of excitement and helps truly eventize this every week.”
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” added WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
USA Network now has five hours of WWE programming per week, as “Monday Night Raw” runs for three.
With 874 original episodes, “Smackdown” is the second longest-running weekly episodic program in U.S. television history, only behind “Monday Night Raw,” which celebrated 1,200 episodes this week.
The two programs combined to reach more than 50 million total viewers last year. “Raw,” however, was the the clear frontrunner.
USA will use the live “Smackdown” premiere to debut new original drama shooter, which stars Ryan Phillippe, and is based on the best-selling Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, “Point of Impact,” and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg.
That series follows the courageous journey of Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after he learns about a plot to kill the President. Closest to the Hole Productions’ Wahlberg serves as executive producer, along with Stephen Levinson of Leverage Entertainment. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and John Hlavin join them.
The series is a co-production between Paramount Television and Universal Cable Productions.