For Monday Night RAW‘s first 999 episodes, one or two hours seemed to fit seamlessly with the content the WWE was producing on a weekly basis. Smackdown was created during the height of the Attitude Era as a supplement to the longest-running weekly episodic show in history, following RAW‘s lead of two hours in its Thursday night prime-time slot beginning in 1999. Smackdown remained two hours while RAW would occasionally add a third for special shows like the company’s return to the USA Network in 2005, a special memorial show for the storyline death of Vince McMahon (which turned into the controversial Chris Benoit episode) or a 15-year anniversary episode.
Then on July 23, 2012, the WWE aired its 1000th episode of RAW, which naturally was reserved for three hours to celebrate the accomplishment. And not only did it kick-start the feud between CM Punk and The Rock, but it also ignited the permanent three-hour format we’re accustomed to now. Smackdown did not follow suit, despite switching networks and nights on a number of occasions. But there’s a chance that might all change come this July.
A report from Daily Wrestling News states that there have been discussions between WWE officials and USA Network executives about adding a third hour when Smackdown goes live on Tuesday nights beginning July 19. It had been reported that the USA Network’s frustrations over Smackdown ratings were the main catalyst for the move to Tuesdays and for going live. After that decision was made, Vince McMahon and company decided to move ahead with the brand extension.
And though USA forced WWE into making Smackdown go live on Tuesdays, it was not willing to pay for the extra costs it takes to make that transition. However, according to this new report, it appears they may be willing to pony up for a potential third hour because of all the buzz that the brand split has generated. There still seems to be quite a bit of debate and decision-making to be done as it pertains to the entire brand split. Who will be in charge of each show? Who will make up the rosters of each show? Will there be two World Champions? And now we can add “Will Smackdown add a third hour to its program?” to that list.
Last week on Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer speculated that adding a third hour would be a bad idea, mostly for the WWE. Many fans have been frustrated with the length of the show for some time now, and there are many within the WWE that feel the same way. There had been a feeling throughout the locker room that earning a spot on the Smackdown roster would be more beneficial, not only because it appears as if it will adopt more to the new era style, but because the two hours will keep fans locked in throughout. There are also potential issues with WWE’s international partners and the chance that those markets would not want to cough up the money for that third hour again.
PWTorch went to the numbers to make a case against the idea of adding that third hour with an eye-opening look at the most recent episode of RAW. The third hour saw a 16.8 percent decline from the second hour, the biggest drop ever in the history of the three-hour format. Only 2.903 million viewers stuck around for the end, which is the second fewest in all of 2016. Smackdown is being created as RAW‘s new competition and designed to reinvigorate the fan base complaining of a stale product. While no decisions have been made yet, all the evidence would indicate that adding that third hour would be a colossal mistake.
[Image via WWE]