UPDATED: “Monday Night Raw” is headed to Netflix.
In a major shakeup, WWE has struck a deal with Netflix that will see its flagship weekly live pro wrestling show begin airing exclusively on the streaming giant beginning in January 2025. That will mark the first time in its three-decade history that “Raw” has not aired new episodes on a linear television network.
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The deal is valued at $500 million per year for 10 years, or a whopping $5 billion commitment by the streamer. Netflix has the option to opt out after the initial five years and to extend for an additional 10 years. Sources say WWE’s current five-year deal for US rights to “Raw” with NBCUniversal is worth approximately $250 million-$260 million per year.
“We are excited to have WWE Raw, with its huge and passionate multigenerational fan base, on Netflix,” said Netflix chief content officer Bela Bajaria. “By combining our reach, recommendations and fandom with WWE, we’ll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members. Raw is the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year and we’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE.”
WWE’s current deal with NBCUniversal has “Raw” airing on USA Network until October 2024. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, exactly where “Raw” will air between the end of that deal and the beginning of the Netflix deal is still being determined.
Under the deal, Netflix will become the exclusive home of “Raw” in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Latin America and other territories once the deal begins, with more countries and regions to be added over time. Netflix will also become the television home for all WWE shows outside the U.S. That includes fellow weekly shows “SmackDown” and “NXT” as well as annual live events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam and the Royal Rumble, as well as documentaries, original series and additional projects.
“In its relatively short history, Netflix has engineered a phenomenal track record for storytelling,” said Nick Khan, WWE president. “We believe Netflix, as one of the world’s leading entertainment brands, is the ideal long-term home for Raw’s live, loyal, and ever-growing fan base.”
“This deal is transformative,” added Mark Shapiro, president and COO of WWE parent company TKO. “It marries the can’t-miss WWE product with Netflix’s extraordinary global reach and locks in significant and predictable economics for many years. Our partnership fundamentally alters and strengthens the media landscape, dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.”
The deal is the final step in WWE’s latest round of TV rights deals. It was previously announced that rights to “SmackDown” had been sold to NBCUniversal and USA Network in a five-year, $1.4 billion deal. Not long after, it was announced that NXT would be moving from USA Network to The CW. A source close to the deal pegged the value to WWE at about $20 million-$25 million a year, also for five years.
Acquiring rights to “Raw” solidifies Netflix’s push into live programming, with the streamer having just tested the waters with livestreaming of late. In March 2023, Netflix debuted its first-ever live event with the comedy special “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.” They followed up with a live “Love Is Blind” reunion special in April. They have aired multiple live events since, most recently the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.
But with “Raw,” Netflix will have a live program that runs weekly year-round. Such a move is a necessity for the trailblazer of the streaming revolution, with multiple competitors already offering regular live sports programs to their subscribers. Amazon, for example, locked up the exclusive rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” for 10 years beginning with the 2023 season. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service and current home to WWE library content and live events in the U.S., recently racked up 23 million viewers when it aired the NFL playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
Shapiro said the deal was months in the making. He credited Bajaria with having the vision to see what WWE could bring to Netflix’s global platform. The long-term licensing agreement was attractive to both buyer and seller for strategic reasons, and it was also a complex transaction worked out in secret. “We both can rarely remember a time when a deal was truly a win-win for both sides – a universally attractive platform meets a universally attractive property,” Shapiro said. “Both have significant and loyal followings and the price and the many parts of the deal are right for both parties.”
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