It's a mighty fine time to be a pro wrestling fan. The industry is going through a bit of a boom period, with multiple companies churning out quality content on the regular. Barely a week goes by without fans enjoying at least two or three excellent displays of scripted athleticism and jacked human beings slapping each other in the chest really, really hard.
It's an even better time to be a pro wrestling fan if you have a Netflix subscription, since the streaming service will soon be the new home of WWE's flagship show in the US and pretty much all of its programming in other territories. Starting in January 2025, Netflix will livestream Monday Night Raw every week in the US, Canada, UK, Latin America and some other countries, with more to follow.
The deal is even sweeter for those outside of the US, as Netflix will stream WWE's other two main weekly shows — NXT and SmackDown — along with its major events like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. WWE documentaries, other original series and future projects will hit Netflix internationally starting next year.
It seems that Peacock will remain the home of WWE's library and major live events in the US for the foreseeable future. Peacock's parent NBCUniversal also owns Raw's current broadcaster, USA Network (it's unclear where the show will air between the expiry of those broadcasting rights in the fall and the Netflix partnership starting in January). USA Network will be the home of SmackDown starting this fall when the show moves over from Fox. NXT, which also currently airs on USA, is moving to The CW.
NBCUniversal and USA Network are said to be paying $1.4 billion for SmackDown rights over five years, while The CW will reportedly pay between $100 million and $125 million for NXT over the same timespan.
It seems the Netflix deal far outstrips those, however. According to multiple reports, the company is paying WWE north of $5 billion over 10 years. That's said to be around double what NBCUniversal currently pays WWE for Raw rights. Amazon was also said to be in talks to become Raw's new home.
This marks a mammoth change for both WWE and Netflix. It will be the first time in the 31-year history of Raw that the show doesn't air on a linear TV network. But, just as the wrestling company took a big risk with shifting from a pay-per-view model to its own streaming service a decade ago, this could very well pay off for WWE at it seeks to grow its already-large fanbase.
“This deal is transformative,” Mark Shapiro, president and COO of WWE parent company TKO said in a statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, it's a major first for Netflix. The company only started dabbling in live content last March with a Chris Rock stand-up show. Since then, it has aired live award shows and a few one-off sports events, though it was forced to cancel its second attempt at a livestream due to technical issues. Raw marks Netflix's first major push into live sports (or sports entertainment if you want to get sniffy about it) and it's set to become the company's first live weekly streaming show.