Reactions were swift in the wake of WWE's decision to resume live broadcasts, beginning with this past Friday's episode of SmackDown. Initially, WWE was set to record upwards of five weeks of programming over the course of this weekend.
Reportedly, after taping one of their planned SmackDown episodes on Friday, Vince McMahon scrapped the recorded show and elected to just do the show live that night. From there, Raw, NXT, and SmackDown will be live each week going forward.
Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter notes that the TV contracts with NBC Universal (the parent company of USA Network) and FOX may have played a role in McMahon's questionable decision to return live so soon.
Wrote Meltzer, "Contracts with both NBC Universal and Fox call for a certain number of shows per year that can be taped. For Raw, that number is three which, at the start of the year, was earmarked for one show over Christmas week and two shows during European tours. In theory, that would leave them with 49 live Raws. Fox has a similar deal.
"While nobody will say so publicly, the fear was that by violating the contract, it would give the networks the legal ability to withhold money or find a way to change the deals. With no house shows, the company, like all sports companies, is surviving largely based on television revenue, but the networks paying that are also taking in far less revenue than they projected at this point in time due to the pandemic."
Meltzer notes it's not clear whether the networks forced McMahon's hand, demanding a return to live programming, or if McMahon chose to pre-emptively do so, in order to avoid violating the terms of the deals.