A new report has revealed that there have been tensions between WWE and FOX over the SmackDown viewership since it moved to the network in 2019.
An in-depth look at the relationship between the two companies has been released on Fightful Select, with a source at FOX admitting that the viewing audience being reached by the blue brand was “disappointing in comparison to expectations”. However, they also noted the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it was impossible to predict the situation that unfolded in 2020. They added that this made it unclear where the numbers would level out in future.
According to the report, however, sources at both WWE and FOX made clear that SmackDown is still the most-watched wrestling TV show in the world.
SmackDown debuted on FOX in October 2019 with the premiere episode drawing a massive 3.9 million viewers. However, by the second week, this had already fallen to 2.9 million. By the following October, after the pandemic hit and WWE were forced to run their shows with no audience, the number had fallen to under 2 million. More recently, the September 10th, 2021 episode, which featured Brock Lesnar’s first television appearance since 2020, drew one of its highest ratings for the year of 2.38 million viewers.
The FOX deal to air SmackDown was announced in 2018 and began in October 2019. It is reportedly worth over $1 billion to WWE over five years.