Peacock to Become Exclusive Home of WWE Network Streaming Service

In a major lifeline for pro wrestling streaming access, Peacock and WWE Jan. 25  announced a multiyear agreement that gives Peacock exclusive streaming rights to WWE Network in the United States.

NBCUniversal has a longstanding relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network.

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

Peacock will launch WWE Network on March 18, beginning the roll-out of more than 17,000 hours of new, original, and library programming on demand and on a 24/7 channel.

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The companies will share details on managing customer accounts closer to the Peacock launch in March. WWE Network, including all PPV events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5 per month savings. For an ad-free experience, Peacock Premium Plus will be available for $9.99.

“WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters,” Rick Cordella, Peacock EVP and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

Cordella said the WWE Network is a “transformative” addition to the platform and complements Peacock’s catalog of movies and shows, as well as live news and sports from NBCUniversal.

“Peacock is an innovative platform that will enable us to showcase our most significant events, including ‘WrestleMania,’ and provide the entertainment our fans have come to expect with the combination of premium WWE content, live sports, news, films and television programs,” Nick Khan, WWE president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

The agreement includes all live pay-per-view  events, including “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam”; “Fastlane” will be the first WWE pay-per-view to stream on Peacock on March 21.

Original series include “Steve Austin Broken Skull Sessions,” “Undertaker: The Last Ride” and the all-new “WWE Icons”; in-ring shows such as “NXT,” “NXT U.K.” and “WWE 205 Live,” as well as replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown”; and “WWE Network” archives, including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history.

Documentaries include “WWE 24,” “WWE Untold,” and “WWE 365,” and, starting in 2022, one signature documentary annually.

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation5; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

WWE Network SVOD Service Adds First Subs in Six Quarters

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

The streaming service helped the WWE brand’s media segment sustain revenue as live event sales crumbled 97% to just $700,000 from cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, the third quarter of 2019 had 67 events in North America and seven events in international markets, generating more than $22 million in revenue.

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Media revenue topped $201 million, an increase of 38%, or $54.9 million, primarily driven by the growth of domestic core content rights fees for the WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” and to a lesser extent, the growth in WWE Network subscription revenue as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms.

Distribution includes videos viewed on third-party (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, etc.) and WWE platforms (WWE.com and WWE App, including the ad-supported free version of WWE Network).

“Our third-quarter financial performance was strong and reflected our ongoing creativity in a challenging environment,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “We continue to adapt our business … focusing on increasing [virtual] audience interaction and engagement to support the value of our content globally.”

Indeed, total revenue topped $221 million, up nearly 19% from $186 million in the previous-year period. Net income topped $48.2 million, from $5.8 million a year ago, as operating expenses dropped almost 20% to $108 million, from $133.8 million.

Anthem Sports & Entertainment Streams ‘Impact Wrestling’ in Russia

Anthem Sports & Entertainment Oct. 1 announced a partnership with Rutube.List — Russia’s largest ad-supported digital platform — to begin streaming Anthem’s combat sports platform, Fight Network, and pro wrestling promotion Impact Wrestling to the video service.

Fight Network and Impact Wrestling programming will launch in a VOD-style format, presented in both English and Russian. Rutube.List claims 10 million viewers throughout Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Kazakhstan, among others.

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Fight Network features more than 300 hours of live sports, in addition to original programs such as “Retrospective,” “Diary,” “In 60” and “After The Fight,” as well as a roster of classic fights and compilations, and series such as “Boxing World Weekly,” “Total Combat,” “International Judo Federation” and “Impact Wrestling.”

Launched in 2002 as a rival to WWE, Impact Wrestling is set to deliver its biggest event of the year next month, when “Bound For Glory” comes to Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 24. The global pay-per-view event is available through FITE TV (order now), Box Nation UK, DISH, DirecTV, Vubiquity, Rogers, Bell, Shaw and Sasktel. Also, it is available on InDemand platforms, including Altice, Cox, Spectrum, Verizon Fios and Comcast Xfinity.

“Russia is a true powerhouse for combat sports, bringing the world some of the top fighters in the business and boasting an impressive base of passionate and knowledgeable fans,” Jaime Pollack, chief revenue officer, Fight Media Group, said in a statement.

Roman Maksimov, CEO of Rutube.List, said the Fight Network channel’s portfolio of  classic wrestling matches, main-event fights include authentic analysis.

“The best and critical moments of combat events and comments come from athletes and experts,” Maksimov said.

Sony Pictures, WWE Partner for India Distribution

Sony Pictures Networks India Private Ltd. and WWE March 31 announced a five-year extension with an expanded broadcast/streaming agreement.

The deal will deliver WWE’s weekly flagship programming and localized content in India and the Indian subcontinent, making SPN the exclusive home to WWE in-ring content across its television and digital platforms.

After China, India, with more than 1.35 billion people, has a bigger population than the next five most populous nations — the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria — combined.

That’s why Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and, now, Sony Pictures and WWE, all place India high on their SVOD distribution lists.

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As part of the agreement, SPN will have the rights to air “Raw,” “SmackDown,” “NXT” as well as WWE pay-per-view specials live on its sports and digital platforms in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The expanded partnership also provides SPN the rights to WWE Network, which hosts thousands of hours of content to be made available to audiences in India through SonyLIV, SPN’s over-the-top video platform.

SPN will curate content from WWE’s extensive video library, which includes live events, classic matches, interviews with Legends, reality shows and documentaries, among other content, on its own platforms.

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“WWE has been consistently ranking in the top three properties across all sports networks in India, dominating the sports entertainment space,” Rajesh Kaul, head sports and chief revenue officer distribution at Sony Pictures Networks India, said in a statement.

James Rosenstock, EVP of WWE International, says India remains a strategically important market for WWE, adding that locally based SPN has been an “extraordinary” partner in helping to grow the pro wrestling fanbase in the region.

“The partnership gives our passionate fans new opportunities to engage with the WWE brand,” Rosenstock said

WWE is one of the most-watched sports properties in India, and India ranks #No. 1 for WWE YouTube consumption and No. 1 in WWE Facebook followers, according to the company.

While there remains a shutdown on live performance events, WWE has been actively recruiting Indian athletes and performers. Last year, WWE hosted its largest tryout in history, where more than 70 top athletes from India showcased their abilities in Mumbai. Four Indian recruits were selected to begin training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

WarnerMedia Partners for New Pro Wrestling League

Move over WWE, there’s a new professional wrestling league coming to broadcast TV, streaming video and pay-per-view — backed by WarnerMedia.

The media company May 15 announced it is partnering with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), an upstart professional wrestling promotion featuring male and female wrestlers, to begin airing weekly “authentic” wrestling matches later this year.

With a goal of making pro wrestling less scripted soapy drama and more real sports legitimacy, WarnerMedia aims to build the league into a global franchise.

Wrestlers will be given more freedom to explore their characters and highlight their athletic abilities. The league will include statistics to wrestling to help fans deepen their engagement by tracking each competitor’s wins and losses as the wrestlers pursue championships, analyzing their moves, assessing damage to their opponents, and providing insights into their winning streaks.

Founded by CEO Tony Khan, AEW is headlined by wrestlers The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), Cody and Brandi Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and Hangman Page, and a roster that includes former WWE star Chris Jericho.

Omega, Cody and The Young Bucks also serve as EVPs of the company in addition to in-ring talent, and Brandi Rhodes also serves as chief brand officer.

WarnerMedia will provide multi-platform access for fans to watch AEW events, airing live weekly matches on TNT in primetime, as well as streaming them through WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report Live (B/R Live) streaming service and on pay-per-view.

“All Elite Wrestling is a talent-forward, fan-first league whose inclusive approach to creating high-quality athletic wrestling competitions is already making waves with fans and attracting top-tier wrestlers,” Michael Quigley, EVP of commercial operations, content strategy and monetization at TBS and TNT, said in a statement.

B/R Live will serve as the exclusive digital streaming partner in the U.S. for AEW’s inaugural event, “Double of Nothing,” on May 25, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The event, which reportedly sold out in under 30 minutes, features a fight card including headliners Omega and Jericho; Cody taking on his brother Dustin Rhodes; The Young Bucks battling the Lucha Bros for the AAA World Tag Team Championship; Hangman Adam Page clashing with PAC; and Britt Baker, Nyla Rose and Kylie Rae competing in a three-way match.

Additionally, the hour-long live pre-show special, “The Buy-In” will stream on WarnerMedia and AEW’s social media channels.

The show includes the first ever “Casino (Battle) Royale,” which will see 21 competitors, including Jimmy Havoc, Billy Gunn, MJF and Jungle Boy entering the ring in waves of five wrestlers every three minutes followed by one final entrant, lucky number 21, all fighting it out in the ring until there is one winner, whose reward will be a future title shot against the first ever AEW World Champion.

“Wrestling fans have wanted — and needed — something different and authentic,” said Khan.

WWE Eyes Uptick in Q3 Media Revenue, Including Home Video

World Wrestling Entertainment Oct. 25 reported a 9% increase in third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) media revenue to $142.1 million from $130.8 million.

The increase was due in part to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, namely license fees associated with original programs, “Raw” and “Smack Down,” as well as the monetization of “Miz & Mrs,” the original series that debuted on USA Network, and the season eight premiere of “Total Divas.”

Other sources of media revenue include distribution of scripted, reality and other in-ring programming, as well as theatrical and direct-to-home video releases.

Indeed, the “other” category of media revenue topped $11.7 million, up 28.5% from revenue of $9.1 million during the previous-year period.

The growth in media revenue reflected increased sales of advertising and sponsorships across platforms, and the continued growth of WWE Network– the over-the-top video service that posted a 9% increase in average paid subscribers to more than 1.66 million.