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CW, 'SmackDown' part ways

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UPDATED 2:10 p.m. PT Friday, Feb. 8

World Wresting Entertainment's "SmackDown" is coming to an end on the CW on Sept. 12.

The companies issued statements late Thursday saying they "have agreed to conclude our partnership," with WWE adding that the CW's exclusive negotiation period ended Jan. 31.

The WWE said negotiations have already begun with other networks but didn't offer specifics. Among the possibilities are NBC Universal, which already is in business with the company through two of its cable channels: USA Network, which airs "WWE Raw," and Sci Fi Channel, which has "ECW."

Viacom's Spike TV also aired "Raw" for five years between its previous and current run on USA.

Another option is News Corp.-owned MyNetworkTV, whose reality-heavy programming slate has many shows targeted more toward males. Many MyNet affiliates also aired "SmackDown" previously when they affiliated with UPN.

Meanwhile, the CW's move effectively will free up two hours on its primetime schedule for other programming. "Smackdown" had been a two-hour block on both the CW and its predecessor, UPN, for the past decade; it currently airs from 8-10 p.m. Fridays.

The move makes sense for the CW as critics have observed that "SmackDown" doesn't quite fit in with the the network's overall schedule, which also includes such shows as "America's Next Top Model," "Smallville," "Gossip Girl" and "Beauty and the Geek."

While "SmackDown" is one of the CW's most-watched programs among total viewers, it fell behind several others in the network's target demo of adults 18-34. There also was little overlap between "SmackDown" viewers and those who watched other CW shows, according to ratings data.

The CW and WWE expressed their gratitude to each other in their statements.

"We are grateful to Linda and Vince McMahon and their entire organization for providing great entertainment to our viewers for so many years," the CW said, while the WWE offered its appreciation to CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves and CW president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff.