It was announced today that WWE Friday Night SmackDown will be returning to USA Network, beginning in October 2024, after leaving primetime on FOX.
According to the press release from TKO Group Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: TKO), which owns WWE, NBCUniversal agreed to a five-year domestic media rights partnership.
There will also be four primetime specials per year that will air on NBC. The press release seems to be splitting hairs with respect to the company’s name, as it noted it will be “the first time WWE will air on the network in primetime” when, in fact, the company did air prime-time shows on the network under its previous company name, WWF. The highest rated wrestling event ever in the United States was on NBC, when Andre the Giant faced Hulk Hogan on February 5, 1988 — where the title was held up after The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase bought the title from Andre. There were other “Main Event” shows on NBC in primetime between 1988 and 1991 as well, under the WWF brand.
“NBCUniversal has been a tremendous partner of WWE for decades,” said WWE President Nick Khan in the press release. “We are excited to extend this longstanding relationship by bringing SmackDown to USA Network on Friday nights and look forward to debuting multiple WWE special events annually on NBC.”
“It’s a privilege and thrill to continue NBCU’s decades-long partnership with WWE which has helped cement USA Network’s consistent position as the top-rated cable entertainment network in live viewership” said Frances Berwick, Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment in the same press release. “With Friday nights on USA, primetime specials on NBC, and the WWE hub on Peacock, we’ll continue to use the power of our portfolio to super-serve this passionate fanbase.”
NBCUniversal also owns Peacock, the streaming service which has been the exclusive home of WWE Network in the U.S. since 2021.
SmackDown had been on FOX since 2019, and before that, it had been on USA Network, which also aims Monday Night Raw in the U.S.