Netflix signed a multibillion-dollar, 10-year deal for exclusive rights to WWE’s flagship weekly wrestling show, “Raw,” as the streaming giant expands its offering with more live content.
Netflix and WWE parent company TKO Group said the deal will bring “Raw” to Netflix starting next January in a statement on Tuesday. Netflix will also have the rights to stream other WWE shows and specials outside the United States.
TKO Group said the deal will cost Netflix more than $5 billion and last for 10 years, with an option to extend an additional 10 years or exit after five. a regulatory filing,
“By combining our reach, recommendations and fans with WWE, we will be able to deliver even more enjoyment and value for their viewers and our members,” Bella Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, said in a statement.
With the WWE deal, Netflix has expanded its live programming, including the reality show “Love Is Blind.” The company has recently focused on sports documentaries rather than live sports. But adding “Raw” to its lineup makes Netflix more competitive with rivals like Peacock, which has made live sporting events the backbone of its service and recently streamed a National Football League playoff game. Amazon Prime streaming Thursday night NFL games starting in 2022; Apple has signed a $250 million per year deal with Major League Soccer and an additional deal with Major League Baseball.
Netflix’s move comes just months after company co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos told analysts during a third-quarter earnings call that documentaries and behind-the-scenes shows like “Drive to Survive,” “Full Swing ,” and “quarterback.” “The part of the sports business that we bring the most value to is the drama of the game.”
“We are not anti-sports,” he said of live sports. We are just pro-profit. “We haven’t figured out how to do that yet.”
The deal with WWE, which is tied to the sport and offers content that is live and largely scripted, could be a step toward realizing this.
“The WWE and Netflix partnership is a big deal,” said Forrester analyst Mike Proulx, pointing out that the company’s flip-flop on live sports is similar to a change in strategy on advertising. For years, company executives vowed never to advertise on the service. However, starting last year, Netflix began offering an ad-supported subscription at a lower monthly price.
He said, “Make no mistake, Netflix’s about-face on live sports is about advertising as the company spends its TV budget on Netflix’s growing target audience, rather than luring big brands.”
KPMG analyst Scott Purdy said more such deals are likely as the streaming business matures in the United States.
“Media rights are extremely attractive to streaming companies because you have a guaranteed audience that wants to watch big games, matches or events,” he said. “This will undoubtedly impact how much content budget is allocated to live sports compared to other content options.”
“Raw”, which launched the careers of stars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, has appeared on linear television since its debut in 1993. It now airs on USA Network, where it has received 17.5 million. According to WWE, unique viewers per year
TKO, which is controlled by Hollywood power broker Ari Emanuel Endeavor and was created by the merger of WWE and the Ultimate Fighting Championship last year, said a separate statement That Mr. Johnson will join its board. TKO shares jumped nearly 17 percent on Tuesday; Netflix shares were up slightly.
WWE’s announcement came a day after Netflix said Scott Stuber, the company’s film chairman who lured filmmakers like Rian Johnson, Zack Snyder and Greta Gerwig to the streaming service, would be leaving in March. His film team scored 18 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, second only to Disney among film studios.