There's three years left on Viacom's contract with WWE (though Smackdown! is only secure until 2003). If WWE tanks even further - and, given what's happened so far this year, that's a distinct possibility - do you think that Viacom would attempt to renegotiate or cancel their contract with WWE? I don't know if Viacom would want to pay so much money to televise programs that are significantly underperforming their expectations (compared to how those programs were performing when Viacom originally signed the deal in 2000).
I'm going twenty-four hours a day...I can't seem to stop - "Turn Up The Radio", Autograph
Nah. I don't see that happening. RAW still draws the highest rating, by a factor of three, of any programming on TNN, and Viacom is more worried about MTV, which is hemmorhaging viewers at an even more alarming rate. Even though RAW ratings don't translate into much hard cash for TNN, they bring their average rating up so far that they affect all their ad rates.
And UPN is still quite pleased with SmackDown! and will probably renegotiate an extension in the next few weeks. There's no way they want to lose one of their top three shows (and still the overall number one for them) the same month that they'll probably lose Buffy.
It wouldn't surprise me to see WWE ask Viacom to move HEAT to TNN, or at least to simulcast or repeat it there.
On top of that, I keep hearing rumors from my buddies in cable that a deal is imminent to rerun old WWE-owned library product on Showtime's digital channel, EXTREME, possibly opposite NWA TNA. The buzz seems to have died down in recent weeks, but at one point it looked like they were going to run old WCW PPVs in that slot. Too bad they don't own ECW, that'd be a natural for that channel.
Another rumor from last year, that CBS might run the occasional special episode of SmackDown! appears to be totally dead now that Leslie Moonves is running both UPN and CBS. Seems he was more apt to raid UPN's top show back when he wasn't responsible for that network too.
Viacom is still happy with the WWE deal, it's not their biggest concern. MTV is. After that, Paramount pictures is in trouble. Then there's the matter of getting clearance for M2.
WWE leads cable in AAMen 18-49, which is one of the (if not the) coveted demo slots on television. If that erodes, worry.
UPN is a higher "weblet" than the WB thanks in part to SD!, so I don't see that going anywhere, either. Hell, IIRC, UPN doesn't even have a 100+ cable system (Layman's terms: WB has stations in markets that are 100 or smaller which don't already have a WB affiliate), and they're still doing better than WB, especially with WB's better line-up.
SD and Buffy, plus market penetration, save UPN's butts daily.
There in lies the problem. If they would stick with a roster for a year each brand would have no choice, but to use everyone on it. You couldn't skate by by not really using Shelton Benjamin, William Regal or Brian Kendrick more.