Netflix snags WWE's “Raw” in a US$5 billion deal

Netflix just sealed a US$5 billion deal, jumping further into live events.

Netflix snags WWE's “Raw” in a US$5 billion deal
WWE Crown Jewel 2021 - Mohammed Abdu Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - October 21, 2021 Roman Reigns holding up his belt REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

The backstory: Netflix is known for sticking to things like movies, standup comedy specials, scripted dramas and binge-worthy series. But last year, there was a shift; the streaming giant started experimenting with live streaming, with Chris Rock's stand-up special "Selective Outrage" being the first ever live event to stream on the platform. It also found success with sports-related shows like the Formula 1 series "Drive to Survive" and the golf series "Full Swing." In November, Netflix streamed its first live sports event, "The Netflix Cup," featuring athletes from its sports documentaries. 

Netflix has recently had its eyes on World Wrestling Entertainment, aka WWE. "Raw," WWE's weekly live wrestling show, has been on since 1993, with 1,600 episodes to date. Known for its intense rivalries and storylines, it draws in 17.5 million viewers annually, making it USA Network’s (the channel that currently airs the show) flagship. 

More recently: In a big move last year, WWE merged with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), forming TKO Group in a US$21.4 billion deal, solidifying its presence in both wrestling and entertainment.

The development: Netflix just sealed a US$5 billion deal, jumping further into live events. Starting January 2025, the platform will become the exclusive home for WWE's “Raw” in the US, Canada, Britain, Latin America and other regions. Netflix will also exclusively stream all WWE shows and events (yes, think “WrestleMania” and “SmackDown”) outside the US. This 10-year partnership gives Netflix the option to extend or back out after five years. Plus, Netflix will become the global home for WWE documentaries and original series from 2025 onward. 

Key comments: 

"As we work to develop the best programming mix for our members, we're also having great success with our sports shoulder programming, making Netflix the go-to place for anyone excited by the drama of sport," said Netflix in its third-quarter note. "It's another area where we can deliver enormous value for our members as well as rights holders and talent."

"This is a super game changer," said TKO President and COO Mark Shapiro in an interview. "When you look back at the chapters of sports media history, new chapters are driven by extraordinary new paradigms. ESPN and Turner bringing NFL to cable in 1987. Rupert Murdoch bringing football to Fox in 1994. When new histories are written, “Raw” on Netflix will be such a chapter starter."

"We are excited to have WWE “Raw,” with its huge and passionate multigenerational fan base, on Netflix," said Chief Content Officer Bela Bajaria in a statement.