In a groundbreaking move, Netflix, the prominent OTT giant, has successfully secured exclusive livestreaming rights for World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) flagship program, Raw, starting January 2025.
The monumental deal, valued at over $5 billion and spanning a decade, will catapult Raw onto the streaming platform exclusively in the US, Canada, Britain, and Latin America.
Netflix’s acquisition extends beyond Raw, encompassing exclusive telecasts of all WWE shows and specials, including the popular SmackDown series, along with pay-per-view live events such as WrestleMania and Royal Rumble outside the US.
Following this significant development, shares of TKO Group Holdings, WWE’s parent firm, witnessed a remarkable surge of 21% in early trading. Meanwhile, Netflix’s stock remained steady amidst the industry-shifting agreement.
Netflix has strategically positioned itself to potentially extend the exclusive streaming rights deal for WWE’s Raw for an additional decade, with the option to reconsider after the initial five years.
This move aligns with Netflix’s foray into live events, building on the success of previous ventures like comedian Chris Rock’s “Selective Outrage” and sports-related programming such as the Formula 1 documentary series, “Drive to Survive,” and the golf documentary series, “Full Swing.”
The company, traditionally focused on sports drama rather than live games, hosted its inaugural live sports event in October, “The Netflix Cup,” featuring athletes from “Drive to Survive” and “Full Swing.”
The Raw deal signifies Netflix’s strategic pivot towards long-term investments in live events, catering to a dedicated, multi-generational fanbase that tunes in weekly for intense matchups featuring iconic wrestlers like CM Punk and Cody Rhodes. WWE’s year-round, non-seasonal competition model adds a unique dynamic to Netflix’s content portfolio.
Raw, WWE’s flagship program airing on Mondays, consistently dominates the USA Network, owned by Comcast, drawing in an impressive 17.5 million unique viewers annually since its debut in 1993 and spanning over 1,600 episodes.
The reliability of Raw’s audience presents a valuable asset for Netflix as it continues to strengthen its ad-supported streaming service, known in the industry as AVOD. With the Comcast deal concluding this year, Raw was receiving approximately $265 million annually for its broadcasting rights under the previous agreement.
The merger of WWE with Endeavor Group’s UFC to form TKO Group Holdings last year, valued at $21 billion, solidifies its position as one of the most influential entities in wrestling and entertainment. Netflix’s strategic acquisition of WWE’s Raw signals a new era in the streaming landscape, with the potential for even more exciting developments on the horizon.