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WWE heads to Netflix in big push for live sports

  • Come 2025, all WWE programming including Monday Night Raw, SmackDown! and live events like WrestleMania will be streamed on Netflix.
  • The streaming leader has signed a 10-year, over $5 billion deal with WWE parent company the TKO Group to livestream WWE programming.
  • The deal has the potential to shake up WWE streaming rights all over the world.

In a bid to start capitalising on its newfound ad revenue, Netflix is signing an exclusive deal with entertainment powerhouse WWE through its parent company the TKO group, which also owns the UFC, to showcase its Monday Night Raw live professional wrestling on its streaming platform in 2025.

According to a Reuters report, the 10-year deal will cost the worldwide streaming leader more than $5 billion and will see Raw – WWE’s flagship weekly episodic show that features stars like Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Rhea Ripley and the Judgement Day – streamed on Netflix live in the US, Canada, Britain and throughout Latin America, among other territories.

Outside of the US, Netflix will also live stream all other WWE programmes, including SmackDown! – its other weekly show – and monthly “premium live events” like WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series and SummerSlam, among others.

The deal marks a historic shift in WWE mentally, being one of American cable’s hallmark attractions since the early 1990s. No stranger to streaming, the company launched its own on-demand digital streaming site, the WWE Network, in 2014, which is still available in some regions like South Africa, and offers live pay-per-view events but weekly episodes of Raw and SmackDown! are delayed.

In June 2023, the WWE also signed a multi-year agreement with Twitch to air “exclusive programming” on its official channel on the live streaming platform.

WWE programming will be among the first live sporting events (or sports entertainment) streamed on Netflix.

Netflix hosted its first-ever live sporting event in the “Netflix Cup” last year in October. Other than that the company experimented with live streaming with the “Selective Outrage” comedy special from Chris Rock, also aired in 2023. Nothing before or since.

“As we work to develop the best programming mix for our members, we’re also having great success with our sports shoulder programming, making Netflix the go-to place for anyone excited by the drama of sport,” Netflix said in a third-quarter earnings note.

“It’s another area where we can deliver enormous value for our members as well as rights holders and talent.”

Why WWE and not “real” sports?

Why not other US sports juggernauts like the NBA or the NFL? It seems Netflix is interested more in the “drama” than the “sport” making the WWE the perfect mix for the streaming giant. Unlike other major names in live sports, the WWE “comes with a spine of entertainment,” said TKO Group president Mark Shapiro.

The WWE produces episodic storyline-driven content, more entertainment than sports, in which the match outcomes are pre-determined in what amounts to essentially a combination of a live stunt show and theatre performance.

Another reason it was picked over other brands is that the WWE produces content all year round and isn’t bound to a season like “football season” or “basketball season.” Its weekly shows make for a perfect streaming attraction, garnering millions of viewers during live broadcasts. Something that Shapiro also alluded to, saying the company brings “appointment viewing to Netflix.”

Monday Night Raw reliably attracts 17.5 million viewers over the course of a year on the USA Network cable channel, its top show, according to a blog post. With Netflix looking to expand its ad-supported subscription tiers, a reliable weekly audience will be highly valued by the streamer.

“We cracked the code with Netflix,” Shapiro said “We’re now a neighbour of the best premium programming slate you’re going to find in the universe of content.”

The deal could potentially shake up the WWE’s streaming rights all over the world. In South Africa, MultiChoice owns the rights to air WWE programming, doing so on DStv and through the DStv Stream.

The South African firm airs all the same content that Netflix is set to air outside the US come 2025. We have reached out to MultiChoice representatives on whether the Netflix TKO deal will affect streaming rights for WWE shows locally. We will update this article with their comments.

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