January 30, 2024
Melinda Head

WWE and Netflix Tie the Live Sports Knot in a $5+ Billion Deal

Streaming may soon feel like a-la-carte cable TV

“Raw” (aka Monday Night Raw) is an American professional wrestling program, which airs live every Monday at 8 PM ET. Produced by WWE, it shares top spot with Friday Night “SmackDown”.

In its largest ever live sports deal, “Raw” will be exclusively streamed on Netflix as of January 2025 as part of a 10-year deal worth more than $5 billion. “SmackDown”, “NXT” and “WrestleMania” are included in the mix. The deal can be nixed after 5 years or extended for a further 10 years.

“Raw” already delivers 17.5 million unique viewers on an annual basis, but it needs an online presence to attract young viewers. Netflix is the largest streaming company in the world, with 260 million paid memberships as of December 2023. With this recently announced marriage, it is flexing its muscles and likely to pull more viewers away from traditional sports broadcasters. Surprise, surprise.

WWE’s arrangement with Netflix opens the door to advertising during intervals, which will increase revenue on top of subscriptions. Sports documentaries like “Formula One: Drive to Survive” and “Break Point” don’t provide that opportunity. Yes, behind-the-scenes footage is always of interest, but there is nothing like the thrill of live competition.

Some WWE fans innocently believe that what they see is true live sport. Sorry to rain on your parade, folks, but you are watching script reality-based programming.

Wrestling is an Olympic sport. Professional wrestling is different. It provides storylines and character development in combination with loosely based wrestling techniques. Watching professional wrestling is meant to create anticipation and excitement. It is a unique experience that can’t be compared to any other sport or form of entertainment.

“Wrestling is ballet with violence.” (Jesse Ventura, former pro-wrestler and Governor of Minnesota)

Seth “Freakin” Rollins (whose real name is Colby Lopez) is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Age 37, he is from Buffalo, Iowa. Rollins plays an arrogant, obnoxious, vicious and calculating villain

Rhea Ripley (whose real name is Demi Bennett) is the WWE Women’s World Champion. Age 27, she hails from Adelaide, Australia. Ripley is gothic, dark, tough and intimidating

The big guys at WWE and Netflix have just wrapped up a media tour announcing their coming together.

“Our partnership fundamentally alters and strengthens the media landscape, dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.” (Mark Shapiro, President/COO, TKO, created when WWE and UFC merged in September)

“We are excited to have WWE Raw, with its huge and passionate multigenerational fan base on Netflix. 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.” (Bela Bajaria, Chief Content Officer, Netflix)

We’ll have to wait a whole year for this Next Big Thing.

Meanwhile, why not watch "The Wrestler" (2008), featuring Micky Rourke as aging wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson? The film delves into the gritty world of professional wrestling, shedding light on the struggles and triumphs of muscular entertainers who make up this challenging “sport”. In this comeback role, Rourke was nominated for an Oscar and won both a Golden Globe and BAFTA award for Best Actor. “The Wrestler” is well worth watching.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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