The SmackDown ratings since it moved to FOX have not been what many expected and the show is likely underperforming in FOX's view. But does this mean that FOX could pull the plug on the show at some point?
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer discussed that possibility, and any precedent of a major network cutting ties to a sports entity, when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast.
"The only real big one was the US Open in golf. FOX dumped them and took a big hit and basically gave it to NBC. That's the only big one that happened but it's a television business. There's always a way out," said Meltzer. "I can't see with USA that happening because Raw is by far their most popular show. The FOX one, that's network TV and it's network primetime TV which is very valuable. Right now I don't know if they're at the state where FOX would be wanting to reevaluate that Friday night time slot just yet. But they're not so far away where you wouldn't think about it."
He noted that SmackDown gets ratings of 1.9 most weeks but if they get to 1.5-1.7 million viewers, then FOX may reconsider.
"Granted their demos have been good but nowhere near what FOX was expecting when they bought them there. Right now the Friday night slot I don't think is in any danger but it's not far away. If we have a year-to-year decline next year at the rate of this year on SmackDown, at that point I could see FOX execs saying they need to reevaluate this stuff," said Meltzer.
What could hasten FOX's desire to reevaluate is if AEW decided to add a Friday night show. Meltzer weighed in on if he thinks AEW would even want to go head-to-head with SmackDown for a "Friday Night War".
"I don't think they're gonna wanna go head-to-head with Raw or SmackDown. If SmackDown were to get moved to FS1 – and obviously AEW does have another show that was supposed to start – could it be on Friday at that point head-to-head? That's a possibility and I could almost see that. Going head-to-head with FOX, I don't think that they would do that and I don't think that's beneficial," stated Meltzer before being asked if FOX's availability is why he doesn't see AEW going up against SmackDown.
"Yeah, you couldn't on TNT beat FOX. But if you were on TNT and had a wrestling show and they had SmackDown on FS1, you could go head-to-head with them. I don't know if you could beat them but you'd be pretty darn close from day one and I think it would be a dog fight. I think for perception, if your B show is going against their B show and you're going head-to-head and getting close or even winning, I think that's a huge plus perception-wise for your product. If somehow, at some point, that thing got moved to FS1 I would actually make that move. I would go, 'Hey, let's give us 8-9pm and go with this second show. We'll go head-to-head with them.' It may fail but I would think that it wouldn't. I would think that you would do real well in that situation."
There's been talks about AEW having a second weekly show and Meltzer revealed what he's heard about those plans.
"The original idea I heard was a one-hour show that would be on primetime on another night. It's not gonna be on Monday or Sunday, and it ain't gonna be Tuesday or Thursday (because of football and basketball). So, we're pretty much limited to Wednesday, Friday or Saturday," said Meltzer.
"I think if they went head-to-head with Smackdown, I think their fanbase would very much mobilize and get behind it. But there's always a risk and there's a risk of going in there and actually getting killed which would also hurt the company. Eric Bischoff had the same thing with Nitro against Raw. Everyone thought he was gonna go in and get killed and from day one he was competitive. I mean literally day one, he was competitive. Then they had that run when they won and then they had that run when they got killed and in the long run, I guess that's what happens. But the perception that you're gonna go against WWE and get killed, that's what everyone thought in '95 and it didn't happen.
"Now with TNA, they did the same thing and they did get killed. I don't think TNA had the momentum – even though the total viewer number was much higher with TNA because TV is very different now and it's harder to get good numbers – but the overall popularity of AEW is far above where TNA was. Even with TNA with Hogan and Flair and all of that with more star power, I don't think they ever had the cool factor with the young audience that AEW has."
Dave Meltzer can be found on Twitter @davemeltzerWON. Dave's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.