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Volume 27 No. 8
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Fox, WWE Pleased With Early Success Of “SmackDown” On Fridays

Shanks said that Fox is at its best when it has broad, family-oriented programming
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Shanks said that Fox is at its best when it has broad, family-oriented programming
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Shanks said that Fox is at its best when it has broad, family-oriented programming
Photo: TONY FLOREZ

Fox began airing WWE's "Friday Night SmackDown" on Oct. 4, and both parties feel the ratings success of the property has proven that WWE reaches a much broader audience than many people realize. Fox Sports CEO & Executive Producer Eric Shanks and WWE co-President Michelle Wilson closed out the Endeavor Streaming Sports Media & Technology conference speaking about how both parties have benefited with the new time slot. "The reality is that when you look at the numbers, and why I think it's a great fit for Fox, is it's really multi-generational," Wilson said. "35-40% of the viewing audience are women. It's all age groups. Right now, when you look at the 18-49 demo, we're winning Friday nights now on Fox. I think there's this misperception that it's just for young men, and while that is a sweet spot for us, our demographics are obviously much more family." Shanks said, "Fox is at its best when it's broad, family-oriented programming. And the biggest events of the year are on Fox, and that's when we're at our best. We looked at it. We did realize that we would have the two most co-viewed shows in all of television on Fox. No. 1 is the Women's World Cup, which happens every four years. No. 2 happens 52 weeks a year, which is 'SmackDown.'"

ART OF THE DEAL: Shanks and Wilson both said that moving the "SmackDown" slot to Friday from Tuesday was a crucial part of the agreement, with Shanks calling that aspect a "dealmaker." Shanks: "A big part of the deal was working with the WWE to get it to Friday night, which is a big, big change for them. Lining it up so that our strategy of owning the weekend -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday -- could come to fruition. All the stars aligned."

CAUSE & EFFECT: While the schedule change has been beneficial in terms of exposure, Wilson admitted that there have been unintended consequences in terms of logistics. "Friday nights are much better than Tuesday nights to sell tickets, so we're like, 'Great!'" she said. "And as we're starting to book out 18 months, we're realizing Friday night is a very popular night for the venues to book NBA and NHL. We didn't think about that, but you figure it out." Another aspect of the relationship Shanks has been pleased with is WWE's willingness to consider new ways to shoot the show, among other changes. He noted Vince McMahon "could have said no," but the WWE Chair & CEO instead "got his whole team behind it." Shanks: "He's been extremely collaborative, very personable. He hasn't said no -- at least to entertaining -- to anything we've brought up."