The start of the WWE’s new TV contracts will likely cause the end of this current iteration of brand splits between RAW and SmackDown, according to ESPN Senior Writer Arash Markazi.
The WWE began this split in 2016, in part as a way to infuse the roster with rising NXT talent. However, the company has used the strategy of splitting up RAW and SmackDown only to merge them once again previous times. The first WWE draft took place in 2002 after the WCW and ECW were bought out, creating enough diversity of talent to have two separate brands. The split was then scrapped and competed as one main roster from 2011-16.
Markazi’s report states that the current brand split didn’t make any waves under the current TV contract because NBC Universal had both shows under its umbrella. However, Fox agreed to pay $1.025 billion over five years for SmackDown rights that begin in October 2019, and NBC Universal will pay $265 million per year for the next five years to keep RAW on the USA Network. Markazi says it’s unlikely either network will be happy with TV rights to only half of the WWE roster each week, especially with a big push for SmackDown moving to Friday nights on Fox.
Markazi added that, not only will the networks want the biggest stars, but the Superstars themselves will also want the mainstream exposure that comes from having SmackDown on Fox. SmackDown will also be part of Fox’s promotional strategy for its Thursday and Sunday NFL games and Saturday college football games, and the network will obviously want more than a half of a WWE roster to promote those events, along with MLB, soccer and NASCAR programming.
The report goes on to state that this will have a massive impact on WWE overall. It will likely create better storylines and better matchups because more superstars will be available to keep feuds from getting stale. Obviously, this could mean that some of your favorite Superstars will see less air time.