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SmackDown to remain two hours on Fox; network execs talk expectations for WWE programming

Since the announcement WWE landed a new television deal with Fox which would see SmackDown LIVE move to Friday nights in October of 2019, there’s been speculation the broadcast network might want to expand the blue brand’s weekly broadcast to three hours. Such a move would match the length of USA’s Raw, and create even more live programming for the Rupert Murdoch-owned channel.

It might make sense on some level, but the speculation can be laid to rest. Fox has unveiled their fall schedule for this year, and SmackDown is only slated to run from 8 - 10PM eastern.

The show which currently gets the best numbers on Friday nights for the network, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, is on hiatus. It will debut on a new night some time in 2020. All of Fox’s future plans for Fridays and WWE may depend on how well the blue show does at drawing new viewers for itself and other Fox shows. Asked if SmackDown is “an island” which will only be watched by dedicated wrestling fans who won’t watch other programs on the network, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier told Deadline:

“If it’s an island, it’s an island I would want to go to and spend some time. I don’t think it’s an island. I think it’s another great promotional vehicle for us, for our other nights. It’s a unique asset.”

It doesn’t sound like Fox will make excuses for SmackDown if it gets off to a slow start, either. Fox Sports chief Eric Shanks revealed why while reiterating the network’s expectation WWE programming will have benefits for other shows on their schedule:

“The WWE joins our schedule at clearly our strongest part of the year, when Fox has the highest circulation of any network on television. Being able to have that Thursday through Sunday circulation, it has to have a positive impact on the rest of the week. There’s just no question about it.”

We’ll see how Fox’s WWE play works out soon enough.

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