Netflix buys rights to WWE Raw, other shows in live streaming push

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Netflix on Tuesday said it will soon be home to the WWE’s most-watched wrestling show, as part of a multibillion-dollar deal that will see the streaming giant enter the ring to compete in covering live sports.

The streaming giant is acquiring the rights to WWE Raw in a $5 billion deal to be paid out over 10 years, as the wrestling group’s contract with Comcast nears its expiration, Bloomberg reported. The series will begin airing on Netflix in January 2025, and will be available to subscribers in North America and other international markets. WWE is part of TKO Group Holdings.

“Our partnership…dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix,” TKO President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Shapiro said Wednesday in a statement. 

More broadly, the agreement highlights the opportunities companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Paramount Global see in streaming sports content (Paramount owns CBS News.) The number of viewers who stream sports events at least once a month is projected to rise to more than 90 million by 2025, up roughly 58% from 57 million in 2021, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

Speaking on CNBC, TKO CEO Ariel Emanuel said he didn’t believe there’s a move away from traditional television networks or cable networks, but that streaming platforms were becoming another option, as seen through its “Raw” deal with Netflix.

“This is the streaming play. For us, it’s the next step,” he said.

Netflix is a comparatively late entrant to growing business of live-streaming sporting events. Its push to build out its live sports offerings comes less than a year after the company aired its first live sports event, The Netflix Cup, a golf tournament in 2023. 

Under the deal, Netflix will also stream WWE specials such as Smackdown and NXT, in addition to hosting pay-per-view live events, such as Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble. Pay-per-view content will be available to Netflix subscribers at no extra charge.

Also part of the agreement is a stipulation that grants wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson the legal rights to his stage name. He has also been named a TKO Group board member. 

Shares of TKO Group jumped more than 19% in early trading.

—The Associated Press contributed reporting. 

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WWE, Sports, Netflix, Live Streaming

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