As the streaming behemoth expands into sports events, Netflix and the WWE professional wrestling juggernaut inked a long-term broadcast agreement on Tuesday. “Raw,” the WWE’s flagship show that has been televised since 1993, will exclusively move to Netflix starting in the United States in 2025.
As soon as the rights become available, the agreement will also allow WWE shows and live events to be streamed globally. Netflix has the option to extend the deal for an additional 10 years or to opt out after the first five years, with an initial $5 billion term. According to Mark Shapiro, president of TKO, the parent company of the WWE, “this deal is transformative.”
“It combines Netflix’s incredible worldwide reach with the unmissable WWE content and locks in significant and predictable economics for many years,” he continued. Among other celebrities, the three-hour program helped launch the careers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and John Cena.
At the moment, it is the most watched program on the USA network in the US, which is owned by NBCUniversal. The WWE is a huge ratings draw, and Vince McMahon, a businessman and promoter, is largely responsible for its success.
He transformed the mediocre World Wrestling Federation (WWF) into a massive entertainment empire in 1982 after purchasing the league from his father. The league, which changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002, saw its annual sales surpass $1 billion this past year.
The agreement is another step in the streaming behemoths’ plan to expand the live sports events they offer. Netflix previously streamed a golf tournament with professional drivers and Formula One drivers, and last month it won the rights to a tennis match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz.
Amazon revealed last week that it would acquire regional rights to a variety of sports, including basketball and hockey, by investing $115 million in Diamond Sports Group, the top local sports channel network in the US. It had previously purchased rights to the NFL American football league, the French Open tennis tournament, the English Premier League, and Ligue 1. For its part, Apple TV holds the worldwide rights to US Major League Soccer. -AFP