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WWE's Smackdown to begin airing live on new night

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Ron ElkmanSports Imagery/Getty Images

USA’s summer slate is getting a one-two punch of action. The network announced Wednesday it will take its weekly WWE Smackdown show live for the first time ever beginning Tuesday, July 19, followed by the premiere of the Ryan Phillippe-starring original drama Shooter.

The revamped WWE Smackdown will feature a unique roster of participants and fresh storylines, the network said. Upon the premiere, the channel will boast five weekly hours of live WWE programming, including their three-hour WWE Monday Night Raw series.

“The fan base for our WWE shows is one of the most passionate and engaged audiences in all of entertainment,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “There is a huge appetite among our viewers for live programming, and the ability to move Smackdown to a live format brings a new level of excitement and helps truly eventize this every week.”

According to a network press release, both WWE programs accumulated a total viewership of 50 million, making USA the No. 1 cable entertainment channel in key demographics on Monday and Thursday nights. 874 episodes into its run, WWE Smackdown is the second longest-running weekly episodic TV series in the history of U.S. TV, second only to Monday Night Raw, which has aired 1,200 episodes throughout its course.

“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said via a statement. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”

Shooter, based on the Stephen Hunter novel Point of Impact and the 2007 Mark Wahlberg movie of the same name, stars Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger, a skilled ex-marine sniper who’s called back to action after he discovers a plot to kill the president. Wahlberg will executive-produce the series, as will Stephen Levinson (Boardwalk Empire, Ballers), Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers) and John Hlavin (The Shield).

WWE Smackdown will air live every week starting July 19 at 8 p.m. ET on the USA Network. Shooter debuts immediately thereafter at 10 p.m. ET.

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