September 27, 2005
Smackdown to Friday nights!

Another in a series of WWE related posts, but this one deals with the WWE's other program (they are considered separate divisions), Smackdown on the broadcast network UPN.

WWE started airing Smackdown on Thursday nights on UPN in 1999, and it has been consistently the most popular or second most popular show on the network, which has struggled at points to survive. WWE usually finished fourth and occaisionally third for the evening in its timeslot amongst the six networks, which is fairly successful considering UPN's penetration and the stiff Thursday lineup.

However, UPN decided to change its lineup around and dedicate its Thursday lineup to a comedy block, thus moving its longest-term most popular show to Friday nights from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., what most people would consider a death sentence. The WWE was not happy about it, and wrestling fans thought it showed a lack of disrespect from UPN.

However, becuase Smackdown only draws in $30,000 per 30-second ad since advertisers have a stereotyped view of who the wrestling audience is, the network wanted to have the chance to bring in larger ad revenue for Thursday nights. So, they created a new lineup based around the Chris Rock show, Everybody Hates Chris.

What most people believed was a dumb move, moving their most popular long-term show to Friday nights, has proven to be brilliant so far. Barring several big pre-emptions due to baseball playoffs in Boston, New York, and a few other key big market cities, the Friday version of Smackdown is drawing identical ratings of the Thursday version. So, UPN is now faring very well with Friday programming, while the Thursday lineup has been more successful than anyone could imagine.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting demonstration that the Friday night death slot may not always be so, especially since they are moving a programming in that has such a dedicated following. It looks like what many media critics were criticizing UPN for turned out to be a stroke of genius.

Here is the press release.