This morning, WWE announced that it had signed a new five-year deal with NBCUniversal to bring WWE Friday Night Smackdown back to USA. The popular Friday night content aired on USA from January 2016 until September 2019 before it was moved to Fox. The announcement came hours before WWE began releasing many notable names from its roster, like Dolph Ziggler, Shelton Benjamin, Mustafa Ali, and more.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that with WWE Smackdown returning to USA, WWE Monday Night Raw and WWE NXT will leave the cable platform. It was noted that the market for the programming is “extremely active” and that traditional linear networks, streaming services, and “unexpected players” are in the mix to acquire the rights to the programming.
WWE secured its current deal with Fox in 2018, which was for five years and one billion dollars. In 2021, the sports entertainment juggernaut landed another one-billion-dollar, five-year deal with NBCUniversal’s Peacock for the streaming rights to their archives and live premium live events. Some of the names that have been rumored as the future home for WWE content are ESPN, Amazon, and Netflix. Now that WWE and UFC have been merged, TKO Group Holdings has teased they may try to combine those content rights into one bigger “short tem” package.
WWE Friday Night Smackdown will not move to USA until October 2024, and tonight’s show is expected to once again feature John Cena on the program. Last week’s show, the first since the WWE and UFC merger, featured the surprise return of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson was accompanied by Pat McAfee, and after some jawjacking with Austin Theory, they both delivered People’s Elbows on the former WWE United States Champion. Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns is expected back on Friday nights soon to build to his match at WWE Crown Jewel.