The United Kingdom has been a key market for wrestling over the past decade. A hot indie scene brought back World of Sport. Both those things drew Triple H’s attention, and gave birth to NXT UK.
When WWE’s television partner changed from Sky to BT Sport, AEW saw an opportunity to trumpet how their United Kingdom television deal would put them in more homes. That didn’t quite work out the way Cody Rhodes & Tony Khan hoped (at least at first), but Dynamite being on a free-to-air channel did give the new company an advantage.
But WWE wasn’t going to stand pat. Today they’ve announced their next move in the UK TV market - a deal which will get versions of their product into homes at no charge to the potential viewer.
CHANNEL 5 AND WWE ANNOUNCE FREE-TO-AIR BROADCAST AGREEMENT IN THE UK
LONDON and STAMFORD, Conn., January 21, 2020 -WWE (NYSE: WWE) today announced a new partnership with ViacomCBS’s Channel 5 to broadcast highlights of its weekly programs Raw and SmackDown on free-to-air television in the UK.
Beginning February 2, Channel 5 will air a one-hour version of Raw on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and one-hour version of SmackDown on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. In addition, NXT UK will air on Paramount Network each Wednesday at midnight.
’Bringing highlights of our flagship programming to free-to-air television for the first time in the UK with Channel 5 is a significant step for the WWE brand, and more great news for our passionate fanbase in the UK,’ said Andy Warkman, Vice President and General Manager, WWE UK & Ireland.
’WWE has strong appeal throughout the UK and across generations so we’re very excited to be bringing their high-quality entertainment to an even bigger free-to-air audience in the UK,’ said James Tatam, VP Commercial, Digital and Operations, Channel 5.
As part of the agreement, content will be made available on Channel 5’s streaming service My5. In addition, full seasons of Total Divas and Miz & Mrs will be offered to My5 viewers, as well as on ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV in the UK.
In addition to the new free-to-air agreement, earlier this month WWE launched on BT Sport in the UK, offering exclusive live broadcasts of Raw, SmackDown and NXT, as well as NXT UK and WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events. The launch of WWE on Channel 5 builds on WWE’s longstanding commitment to the UK. Throughout the company’s 30+ year history in the region, WWE continues to expand its presence with marquee live events, annual talent tours and the development of local talent at the state-of-the-art WWE UK Performance Center in London.
They’re not exactly prime time slots, but they’re similar to what Dynamite ended up with on ITV. AEW’s partner does have greater reach and share in the market, however.
Still, it could be a key move for WWE in a region they’ve clearly prioritized. We’ll see how it plays out.