WWE’s signed the next round of media rights deals for NXT and SmackDown, but we were still waiting to see where Raw would land. A streaming service was a frequently mentioned option, and we learned this morning (Jan. 23) that WWE’s frequent flagship program would head to the biggest streamer of them all — Netflix.
There are additional elements of the deal, as well. Netflix will stream Raw not only in the United States, but also in Canada, the United Kingdom & Latin America, “among other territories, with additional countries and regions to be added over time.” Outside the U.S., Netflix will also carry SmackDown (airing on USA Network in the States) and NXT (The CW), plus premium live events and documentaries & specials which have up until now been part of the WWE Network rights held by NBCUniversal’s Peacock service.
Estimates on the value of the deal vary, but either way WWE’s parent company TKO should be happy. CNBC’s Alex Sherman and the Sports Business Journal are both saying the Netflix deal is for 10 years and more than $5 billion; a TKO SEC filing has confirmed those figures, and adds that Netflix can opt out of the contract after five years or extend it for another ten. The combined value of the Raw and SmackDown deals that started in 2019 (with USA and FOX, respectively) was reportedly $2.35 billion over five years.
This deal, which TKO President and COO Mak Shapiro heralds as “transformative”, does come with question marks. Streaming Raw weekly will represent a big step up in Netflix’s live offerings, but Shapiro told SBJ they have no concerns there — and the fact the deal doesn’t start until January 2025 gives both parties time to ensure a successful launch next year.
Raw’s current contract with USA expires in October of this year, however. A Variety report on the Netflix partnership mentions that it remains to be determined where WWE’s red show will air at the end of this year.
With this news, the latest round of WWE rights negotiations comes to a close. But another one is looming next year, when Peacock’s contract for domestic rights to the Network — and PLEs — comes up. It’s long been thought TKO will try to package those along with the current UFC streaming package held by Disney.
Lots to sort through, with more certainly to come in the days and weeks ahead. For now, here’s WWE’s press release on joining forces with Netflix:
NETFLIX TO BECOME NEW HOME OF WWE RAW BEGINNING 2025
Long-Term Deal Brings Weekly Live Sports Entertainment to Netflix
STAMFORD, Conn., January 23, 2024 – WWE, part of TKO Group Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: TKO), and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) today announced a long-term partnership that will bring WWE’s flagship weekly program – Raw – to the world’s leading entertainment service. This marks a major programming shift as Raw leaves linear television for the first time since its inception 31 years ago
Beginning in January 2025, Netflix will be the exclusive new home of Raw in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Latin America, among other territories, with additional countries and regions to be added over time. Likewise, as part of the agreement, Netflix will also become the home for all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S. as available, inclusive of Raw and WWE’s other weekly shows – SmackDown and NXT – as well as the company’s Premium Live Events, including WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble. WWE’s award-winning documentaries, original series and forthcoming projects will also be available on Netflix internationally beginning in 2025
“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.”
“We are excited to have WWE Raw, with its huge and passionate multigenerational fan base, on Netflix,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer, Bela Bajaria. “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.”
“In its relatively short history, Netflix has engineered a phenomenal track record for storytelling,” said Nick Khan, WWE President. “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.”
With 1,600 episodes to date, Raw is the most iconic show in sports entertainment. Since its debut in 1993, Raw has delivered action, compelling drama and unmatched athleticism – 52 weeks a year. Blending the best of scripted content with unpredictable live entertainment, the three-hour show has helped launch the careers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Triple H, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair.
The show is currently the No. 1 show on USA Network, where it brings in 17.5 million unique viewers over the course of the year. One of television’s best performing shows in the 18-49 advertising demographic, Raw trends on X 52 weeks a year while each new episode is airing. On social media, WWE has more than one billion followers across its platforms.