MyNet leg-locks 'SmackDown'


News Corp.'s MyNetworkTV will be the new home of World Wrestling Entertainment's "WWE SmackDown" starting in the fall after the sports entertainment powerhouse's show ends its run on the CW.

Industry observers have in recent weeks expected a deal with MyNet, but WWE management had said as recently as two weeks ago that various networks were in the running (HR 2/13). The two parties made things official Tuesday.

"This is a big, bold franchise with huge awareness in the marketplace," MyNet president Greg Meidel said, noting that the deal came together quickly. "The brand is recognized by both men and women (in the key demos of) 18-34 and 18-49, so it will give us a huge locomotive to drive our schedule and build it out at a much faster rate."

Meidel said "SmackDown" will remain a two-hour program, airing on Thursday or Friday night. That means the series will displace one of the network's two movie nights, which could move to Saturday.

"SmackDown" has for nine years been one of the most popular programs among males on broadcast TV and one of the top 10 English-language primetime programs among Latino households.

Said WWE chairman Vince McMahon, "We have an unmatched record of delivering ratings success to each and every network partner we've worked with in our long and storied history."

Meidel noted that the series previously aired on several News Corp.-owned stations when they were UPN affiliates, before that network merged with WB Network to form the CW.

"We have a real history of selling and monetizing 'SmackDown,' " he said. "This was driven by our interest not only as a network but also as a stations owner."

MyNet also is no stranger to fight-themed programming. It had a relationship with the International Fight League for a two-hour block featuring mixed martial arts programming, which debuted in March but disappeared from the schedule several weeks ago. Meidel said the IFL programming had a more narrow audience appeal than "SmackDown."

The "SmackDown" news follows on the heels of MyNet's 13-episode order for its first sitcom, the Flavor Flav starrer "Under One Roof" (HR 2/6). Meidel said he is looking at a "very aggressive development slate for fall" that could include more scripted projects.

Kimberly Nordyke reported from Los Angeles; Georg Szalai reported from New York.