Ted Sarandos: ‘Super Excited’ About WWE ‘Raw’ Deal, Expanding the ‘Sports Entertainment’ Market Internationally

Netflix pursued the WWE’s “Raw” live weekly pro wrestling show due to the content’s “sports entertainment” focus, mirroring the streamer’s strategy for producing reality-based docuseries on Formula 1, NASCAR, tennis, golf and the Tour de France bike race.

Speaking on the Jan. 23 fiscal webcast, co-CEO Ted Sarandos said he was “thrilled” with the deal that begins in 2025, but it does not alter Netflix’s heretofore limited interest in live sports streaming. Instead, the executive reiterated that “Raw” hits the streamer’s “sweet spot” revolving around the “drama” of sport, and not necessarily the score, wins or losses.

“Fifty-two weeks a year of live programming feeds our desire to expand our live event [content],” Sarandos said. “But, more importantly, fans love it. For decades, WWE has grown this multigenerational fan base [that] we believe we can serve and we can grow.”

The executive contends the WWE has been historically under-distributed outside of the United States — a key point since the majority of WWE content licensed to Netflix outside of “Raw” is for international markets only. NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform holds the U.S. rights to that WWE programming.

“We can help them, and they can help us build that global fandom around the world,” Sarandos said, adding that “Raw” would help with Netflix’s nascent ad-supported content as well.

The executive said the deal would not increase the streamer’s current $17 billion annual content spending, but rather be a part of that spending. Sarandos characterizes the agreement as the inverse of Netflix’s deal with Formula One, which saw the streamer capture the international auto racing circuit’s fan base and replicate it in the United States.

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“We can build on that as we have with Formula 1, and other sports programming, like ‘Drive to Survive,’ ‘Full Swing’ [golf], ‘Break Point’ [tennis], and the Tour de France bike race,” he said. “Storytelling is part of WWE, so this is a proven formula for us… so, super excited about this.”

Netflix Inks $5 Billion WWE ‘Raw’ Deal, Streamer’s First Live Sports Venture

Netflix has officially entered the live sports streaming business.

The streamer Jan. 23 announced a long-term deal with World Wrestling Entertainment, part of TKO Group Holdings Inc., that will bring WWE’s flagship weekly program — “Raw” — to the world’s largest streaming service beginning in January 2025. Media reports say the deal is worth $5 billion over 10 years.

This marks a major programming shift as “Raw” leaves linear television for the first time since its inception 31 years ago. Beginning next year, Netflix will be the exclusive new home of the series in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Latin America, among other territories, with additional countries and regions to be added over time.

Netflix will also become the home for all WWE shows and specials outside the United States as available, inclusive of “Raw” and WWE’s other weekly shows — “SmackDown” and “NXT” — as well as the company’s live events, including “WrestleMania,” “SummerSlam” and “Royal Rumble.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service holds the exclusive U.S. rights to the aforementioned programming, excluding “Raw.”

WWE’s documentaries, original series and forthcoming projects will also be available on Netflix internationally beginning in 2025.   

“This deal is transformative,” Mark Shapiro, TKO President and COO, said in a statement. “Our partnership fundamentally alters and strengthens the media landscape, dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.”  

Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, said the deal will afford subscribers weekly access to “great characters and storytelling” with live action 52 weeks a year.

“We’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE,” Bajaria said.

With 1,600 episodes since its debut in 1993, “Raw” has delivered action, drama and athleticism 52 weeks a year. The three-hour show has helped launch the careers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Triple  H, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair.

The show is currently the No. 1 show on the USA Network, where it brings in 17.5 million unique viewers over the course of the year. One of television’s best performing shows in the 18-49 advertising demographic, “Raw” trends on X 52 weeks a year while each new episode is airing. On social media, WWE has more than 1 billion followers across its platforms. 

Netflix reports fourth-quarter fiscal 2023 fiscal results later today.

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WWE Streaming Video Service Tops 1.59 Million Subscribers

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Feb. 7 reported a 7% (110,000) increase in fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) subscribers to its WWE Network over-the-top video streaming service. The platform ended the period with 1.59 million subs.

Media revenue grew 40% to a quarterly record of $205.3 million, primarily due to the distribution of certain live, in-ring programming content in international markets, which was partially offset by the timing and performance of the company’s portfolio of original movies.

Additionally, media revenue reflected the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms and the continued growth of WWE Network.

“In 2018, WWE generated the highest level of revenue and earnings in the company’s history by leveraging our brand strength to increase the monetization of our content worldwide,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “Our long-term growth strategy will continue to focus on content creation, digitization and international development.”