Yesterday it was reported the WWE will be going back to live episodes of RAW, SmackDown, and NXT from the NXT Performance Center in Orlando, beginning next week. The shows will continue without a live audience.
In an update, F4WOnline is reporting the change came from Vince McMahon on Friday. WWE had been taping SmackDown and 205 Live when McMahon decided he wanted to change things up and keeps the shows "as close to live as soon as possible."
The original plan was to do enough tapings to bring WWE to May 10. The report stated many within the company were shocked with those close to the situation backing it due to the current economic situation.
The possible reason for the change comes down to WWE's contracts with NBC Universal and FOX, which both allow for a certain amount of taped shows during the year. If WWE goes over that amount - for RAW, the number is three episodes a year - there's concern that FOX and NBC have grounds to change up the deals. WWE has already cancelled of its live events in April, and postponed its European tour in early May, leaving TV revenue as their main source of income. WWE's next PPV, Money in the Bank, is also no longer taking place at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.
With the current pandemic taking place, networks are bringing in less revenue and may need to make cuts - thus the fear from WWE. It's unknown if FOX and NBC pressured McMahon to get back to airing live with dwindling ratings over the past few weeks, or if WWE is being proactive with this move.
Also noted in the report, networks are in need of WWE's programming right now - so despite advertising business being down - it's unlikely they would outright cut WWE from their channels.
Going live means bringing in WWE Superstars and crew each week to the shows during the coronavirus pandemic, which has its own issues, especially with Florida issuing a stay-at-home mandate. Last week, WWE sent a memo to stars and crew in regard to procedures at the Performance Center during this time.