After insisting publicly for years that it was not dead-set on pursuing sports rights, Netflix has made a landmark deal for one of linear TV’s staples, WWE’s Monday Night Raw.
Starting in January 2025, Netflix will now be the exclusive home of Raw in the U.S., Canada, UK and Latin America. Additional territories from Netflix’s footprint of more than 190 are to be added over time. USA Network had aired the Raw franchise and launched it in January 1993.
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The deal is for 10 years and more than $5 billion, a person familiar with the terms told Deadline.
Along with the main Raw program, Netflix will become the home for all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., including other weekly shows SmackDown and NXT. It will also stream the company’s roster of live events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble and also make WWE documentaries, original series and forthcoming projects available on demand outside the U.S. (Peacock, via the WWE hub it originated in 2021, has domestic rights.)
Netflix has taken an increasing interest in live programming and had even reportedly put in a bid for Formula 1 rights before the auto racing circuit renewed with ESPN in 2022. In late-2023, Netflix aired a made-for-streaming golf competition and has also carried award shows and stand-up comedy specials without the safety net of video on demand. Similar to the streaming giant’s stance on advertising, it had been badgered by Wall Street analysts for years about whether it would throw its hat in the live sports ring. While the WWE is technically classified as sports entertainment due to the scripted nature of its bouts, the fervor of its fan base and the loyal tune-in make wrestling one of the most consistent bets in the programming world.
Streaming has begun to draw significant live sports away from the traditional TV bundle. In 2022, Amazon’s Prime Video kicked off an 11-year exclusive on NFL Thursday Night Football and Apple has joined Amazon and Peacock in streaming Major League Baseball. ESPN is preparing a full direct-to-consumer version to debut by next year.
The rights transaction comes just a few months after the close of the WWE’s merger with Endeavor’s UFC in the new public entity TKO Group Holdings.
“This deal is transformative,” said Mark Shapiro, TKO President and COO. “It marries the can’t-miss WWE product with Netflix’s extraordinary global reach and locks in significant and predictable economics for many years. Our partnership fundamentally alters and strengthens the media landscape, dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.”
Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, had a front-row seat to the WWE’s dominance during her run as an executive at Universal Television. She got to Netflix in 2016.
“We are excited to have WWE Raw, with its huge and passionate multigenerational fan base, on Netflix,” Bajaria said. “By combining our reach, recommendations, and fandom with WWE, we’ll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members. Raw is the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year and we’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE.”
WWE President Nick Khan has long mentioned Netflix as a potential rights partner, noting the advertising factor in live programming. Netflix launched its $7-a-month advertising tier in November 2022.
“In its relatively short history, Netflix has engineered a phenomenal track record for storytelling,” Khan said. “We believe Netflix, as one of the world’s leading entertainment brands, is the ideal long-term home for Raw’s live, loyal, and ever-growing fan base.”
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