Netflix Begins Streaming WWE Raw in Major Move into Live Entertainment



by ATIA MUKHTAR

Netflix Begins Streaming WWE Raw in Major Move into Live Entertainment
© Hardway Wrestling/YouTube

Netflix and TKO Group Holdings have made a significant leap into live sports broadcasting by announcing their agreement to stream WWE’s prominent show, “Raw,” starting next year. The deal, valued at over $5 billion for a 10-year duration, represents Netflix’s first major foray into live sports.

This agreement gives Netflix the option to opt-out after five years and potentially extend for an additional decade. The deal grants Netflix global streaming rights for “Raw,” with initial exclusive rights in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Latin America.

Furthermore, Netflix will be the primary platform for all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., encompassing “SmackDown,” “NXT,” and major events like “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam”.

Following the announcement, TKO’s shares surged by more than 15%, a boost further propelled by the news of Dwayne Johnson, a renowned actor and former wrestling icon, joining its board. Netflix shares also experienced a slight increase.

This strategic move is part of Netflix’s broader efforts to diversify its content and revenue streams, including reducing subscription sharing and expanding its ad-tier membership. Incorporating “Raw,” which currently airs live for three hours weekly on USA Network, marks a significant shift in Netflix’s content strategy.

Mark Shapiro, President and COO of TKO, highlighted the historic nature of this partnership, comparing it to transformative events in sports broadcasting such as the introduction of NFL on cable and Fox’s acquisition of football broadcasting rights.

He believes that “Raw on Netflix” will be a landmark in sports media history.

Netflix Expands WWE Content

Netflix, traditionally known for documentaries and series about various sports, now opens up possibilities for creating content around WWE’s rich intellectual property, potentially leading to movies or series based on WWE characters.

The deal is a significant win for WWE’s parent company, TKO, expanding its reach to Netflix’s vast global subscriber base of about 250 million. WWE President Nick Khan has been considering Netflix as a potential platform for “Raw” due to its adaptive strategies, such as embracing advertising and tightening password sharing.

Netflix’s decision to stream “Raw” was influenced by its global influence and marketing capabilities. The company's recent move to an advertising tier, with 23 million monthly active users, will shape the format of the matches, ensuring an uninterrupted experience for ad-free subscribers.

“Raw” is the top-rated program on the USA Network, drawing 17.5 million unique viewers annually. Confidence in Netflix’s capability to handle live streaming has been reinforced by successful live sports broadcasts on Amazon and Peacock.

This deal marks a new chapter in sports entertainment broadcasting, bridging the gap between traditional television and streaming platforms.

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