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Netflix Secures Live Streaming Rights for WWE’s “Raw” in a Landmark $5 Billion Deal with TKO Group

Cam Speck

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Netflix is shaking things up by landing a major deal with TKO Group, scoring live sports for its viewers. They’re putting down a whopping $5 billion to keep this show running for a decade, which means we’re gonna see Netflix playing in the big leagues of live sports action.

Key Elements of the Deal

From 2025, you’ll be able to watch WWE’s top show “Raw” live on Monday nights over at Netflix.

This arrangement also covers streaming for WWE’s other programs and big events internationally.

The price tag for Netflix is over $5 billion for these streaming privileges, and they can either stick with it for another decade or bail after five years.

Background and Historical Context

“Raw” originated on the USA Network in 1993 and has since been a staple of sports entertainment television. It switched to TNN in 2000 before returning to USA in 2005. This program has been instrumental in launching the careers of several wrestling superstars, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. As of now, “Raw” draws an impressive 17.5 million unique viewers annually on the USA Network.

Shift in Broadcast Partners

  • “SmackDown,” currently broadcast on Fox on Friday nights, will transition to USA in October as part of a separate five-year deal worth approximately $1.4 billion.
  • Netflix plans to develop scripted television and films based on WWE’s intellectual property, leveraging its storytelling capabilities.

Netflix’s Strategic Shift and Industry Implications

Netflix is making a big change by starting to show live sports. In the past, they made documentaries and shows about what happens in sports off the field, like “Drive To Survive” and “Full Swing.” But by buying “Raw” shows they’re now also interested in showing sports as they happen.

Expansion into live-streaming

  • This move into live sports follows Netflix’s experiments with live events, such as a Chris Rock comedy special and the Netflix Cup golf tournament.
  • The deal also coincides with Netflix’s introduction of an ad-supported subscription model, suggesting a strategic focus on attracting advertising revenue.

Competitive Landscape

  • Netflix’s expansion into live sports positions it as a competitor to services like Peacock and Amazon Prime, which have already established themselves in the live sports domain.
  • The deal is expected to influence the streaming industry’s content strategy, potentially leading to more investments in live sports rights.

Impact on the Streaming Industry

Analysts predict this deal could reshape the streaming landscape. With live sports traditionally being a major draw for advertisers, Netflix’s entry into this space signals a broader trend of streaming services diversifying their content to capture larger audiences and advertising dollars.

Analyst Perspectives

  • Mike Proulx from Forrester notes that Netflix’s move into live sports, much like its foray into advertising, shows a significant strategic shift.
  • KPMG’s Scott Purdy emphasizes that media rights for live sports are highly attractive due to their guaranteed audience and potential impact on content budget allocation.

Future Prospects and Expectations

As Netflix embarks on this new journey, expectations are high regarding how this shift will affect its overall content strategy and subscriber base. The inclusion of live sports, particularly a brand as popular as WWE, is likely to attract a new demographic of viewers, potentially boosting subscription numbers. Additionally, the development of scripted content based on WWE’s intellectual property could lead to a new era of sports entertainment on the platform.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the excitement, this venture does not come without challenges. Live streaming, especially of high-profile events like WWE matches, demands robust technical infrastructure to ensure seamless broadcasting. Netflix’s past experiences with live events, like the “Love Is Blind” reunion episode that faced technical difficulties, highlight the need for robust streaming capabilities. On the other hand, the successful streaming of a live Chris Rock comedy special shows potential for overcoming these challenges.

Conclusion and Market Response

Once the news broke, it sent TKO’s stock through the roof, spiking up by 17 percent. It’s a big win for Netflix, bulking up its lineup and standing tall among rivals in the streaming game. Bela Bajaria, the big chief of content at Netflix, can’t wait to pump up the volume of excitement for fans everywhere. Read the official statement here.

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