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Smackdown going live every Tuesday night, brand split returning

Shane Steph Smackdown

WWE announced today that Smackdown will be live every Tuesday starting on 7/19 and the show will feature a distinct roster and separate writing teams for each show. We first noted several months ago that there was talk of a brand split, similar to what they did back in 2002. There were hints of this with merchandise being leaked featuring talent under the "Raw" and "Smackdown" umbrella.

The move makes sense now that they have so many names under contract on the main roster and in NXT. We had noted several weeks ago that there were plans to turn Smackdown into a hybrid show with elements of Raw and NXT mixed in.

The move is being done, in part, because USA wanted more DVR-proof content. In other words, they wanted more live programming rather than programming that can be watched later on DVR or on demand. Live content is more attractive to advertisers and this move would make Smackdown seem more like a "must-watch" show especially if they are putting more effort into keeping storylines fresh. The problem with Smackdown in recent years is the feeling from fans that the show is skippable because the main stories are progressed on Raw and, oftentimes, you see variations of the same matches that were shown on Raw. A brand split should fix this problem.

It will be interesting how they handle the championships. Will there be separate championships for each brand or will they allow champions to defend on both brands? Will they do separate Raw and Smackdown pay-per-views? Those are questions that have yet to be answered. I think it's clear now what the plans were for post-WrestleMania and I think we know why Shane was kept on TV even though he lost to The Undertaker.

The move is not good for TNA since Smackdown will now be head to head against Impact Wrestling on Pop TV. Clearly, TNA will not have an Impact on Smackdown's viewership but could have a big effect on TNA's viewership.

Check out the official announcement from Stephanie and Shane McMahon below:

Here is the full press release from WWE:

- SMACKDOWN to Feature Distinct Roster and Storylines --

-- Conspiracy Thriller ‘SHOOTER’ to Premiere Immediately Following SMACKDOWN on July 19 at 10/9c --

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NEW YORK & STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- USA Network, the exclusive cable home to WWE’s marquee properties, announced that its weekly SMACKDOWN show will air live – for the first time ever – and move to Tuesdays every week beginning July 19 from 8-10PM ET/PT. With the SMACKDOWN move, USA Network will now offer five hours of live WWE programming a week, including the weekly three-hour live WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW (airing Mondays from 8-11PM ET/PT), with each show featuring a distinct cast, unique storylines and a dedicated writing team.

In 2016 to date, MONDAY NIGHT RAW is averaging 4.011MM total viewers, 1.873MM P25-54 and 1.846MM P18-49 L7, and SMACKDOWN in its current time slot is averaging 2.674MM P2+, 1.136MM P25-54, and 1.058MM P18-49+ L7, making USA the #1 cable entertainment network across the key demos on Monday and Thursday nights. In 2015, the two programs combined reached over 50MM viewers. Both shows will now air live 52 weeks a year.

“The fan base for our WWE shows is one of the most passionate and engaged audiences in all of entertainment,” said Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “There is a huge appetite among our viewers for live programming, and the ability to move SMACKDOWN to a live format brings a new level of excitement and helps truly eventize this every week.”

"WWE's flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV," said WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”

With 874 original episodes, SMACKDOWN is the second longest-running weekly episodic program in U.S.television history, only behind MONDAY NIGHT RAW at 1,200 episodes.

Beginning July 19, immediately following SMACKDOWN, USA Network will premiere the new original drama SHOOTER, starring Ryan Phillippe (“Secrets and Lies”), at 10/9c.SHOOTER is based on the best-selling Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, Point of Impact, and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg. The series follows the courageous journey of Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after he learns about a plot to kill the President. Mark Wahlberg (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Entourage”) of Closest to the Hole Productions serves as executive producer along with Stephen Levinson (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Ballers”) of Leverage Entertainment; Lorenzo di Bonaventura (“Transformers,” “The Real O’Neals”) and John Hlavin (“The Shield”). The series is a co-production between Paramount Television and Universal Cable Productions.

About USA Network

USA Network, the leader in cable entertainment, offers a powerful stable of dramatic, comedic and unscripted originals in more than 102 million U.S. homes. The network also features spectacular live television, a dynamic portfolio of acquired series and the best in blockbuster theatrical films and entertainment events. A trailblazer in digital innovation and storytelling, USA is defining, driving and setting the industry standard for Social TV. USA is a program service of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBCUniversal. USA’s award-winning website is located at http://www.usanetwork.com. Watch USA Network anywhere: On Demand, online or across mobile and connected TVs.

About WWE

WWE, a publicly traded company (NYSE:WWE), is an integrated media organization and recognized leader in global entertainment. The company consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. WWE is committed to family friendly entertainment on its television programming, pay-per-view, digital media and publishing platforms. WWE programming reaches more than 650 million homes worldwide in 25 languages. WWE Network, the first-ever 24/7 over-the-top premium network that includes all live pay-per-views, scheduled programming and a massive video-on-demand library, is currently available in more than 180 countries. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Munich and Tokyo. Additional information on WWE (NYSE: WWE) can be found at wwe.com and corporate.wwe.com. For information on our global activities, go to http://www.wwe.com/worldwide/.