In a week filled with unexpected developments in the world of professional wrestling, WWE has managed to capture headlines with a groundbreaking announcement that has far-reaching implications for the industry. The company has confirmed a monumental streaming partnership with Netflix, set to kick off in 2025, for its marquee program, "WWE Raw." This deal, valued at an astonishing $5 billion over a decade, translates to $500 million annually.
It includes flexible terms that could see the arrangement adjust to as short as five years or extend up to two decades, depending on certain conditions. Dave Meltzer, a seasoned wrestling journalist, delved into the potential repercussions of WWE's strategic move in the latest edition of the "Wrestling Observer Newsletter." A key point of discussion is the impact on All Elite Wrestling (AEW), WWE's chief competitor.
Meltzer highlights a silver lining for AEW, given that Warner Bros. Discovery's decision to pass on "Raw" might inadvertently benefit the rival promotion. AEW is currently in an exclusive negotiation period with Warner Bros. Discovery, and with "WWE SmackDown" and "WWE NXT" already secured with USA Network and The CW, respectively, any cable networks seeking entry into the wrestling arena may now turn their attention to AEW.
This shift could endow AEW with a significant advantage in its ongoing talks with Warner Bros. Discovery, especially since the promotion might draw interest from other networks. Although AEW's President Tony Khan has the liberty to explore television deals for Ring of Honor (ROH), he is expected to wait until the exclusive negotiation window closes, allowing him to present his full portfolio of offerings.
WWE's Global Shift
The financial windfalls from such deals are not just a boon for the promotions but also for the wrestlers, enhancing their value and bargaining power in contract negotiations. Moreover, WWE's alliance with Netflix is poised to redefine its international broadcasting landscape, making Netflix the exclusive broadcaster for WWE content in significant markets like the UK and Canada, thereby phasing out traditional channels like TNT Sports and Sportsnet 360, and shuttering the WWE Network as an international platform.
This seismic shift opens new doors for AEW to explore international distribution avenues, although existing agreements with Triller TV, ITV, and TSN may constrain opportunities in key markets. Nonetheless, the evolving broadcasting dynamics underscore a period of intense negotiation and strategic planning that could reshape the future of professional wrestling on a global scale.