During the week of Christmas in 2017, WWE offered their fans a present by making both Raw and SmackDown Live commercial-free for the first hour of each show. It gave the WWE Universe more programming and was seen as a resounding win from the eyes of the fans.
Well the USA Network will be following along those lines during the 2018-19 TV season, though not to the extent of eliminating commercials. Instead NBCUniversal, which owns USA Network, will cut back on its commercials for primetime viewing. There will be a 10 percent reduction in commercial time and 20 percent fewer ads. TV By The Numbers estimates that a 10 percent reduction in commercial time would add two to four minutes of programming though it's unclear as to how long of a TV show that is for.
This change will obviously affect both Raw and SmackDown Live which air on the USA Network....for now. WWE's television contract with NBCUniversal expires in 2019 and there are numerous interested parties in network TV, cable and with streaming services. The likes of Fox, FaceBook and Amazon are all expected to bid on WWE's programming which has called USA home for most of Raw's existence and since 2016 for SmackDown.
To this point Fox has shown the most interest in acquiring WWE's TV rights as their contract with UFC also expires in 2019. WWE was in Los Angeles recently which is where Fox is headquartered, and some big wigs at Fox were on hand at SmackDown to seemingly discuss a future together.
In the front row last night at the WWE Smackdown show in L.A.: Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, Fox Sports talent producer Jacob Ullman and Fox Sports talker Colin Cowherd.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 28, 2018
There may be more potential network suitors that the public doesn't even know about and there are sure to be more that emerge over the coming months. With the ratings success of Raw and SmackDown, WWE is in an advantageous position and they will look to translate that into a mega pay day with their next TV contract.