Netflix Pays $5 Billion To Be The Home Of WWE RAW And More WWE Programming
In a shocking move, Netflix has bought the rights to WWE Monday Night RAW. Well, at least for the next 5 years that is. The deal is a 10-year, $5 billion deal. WWE will begin running RAW on the platform starting in January 2025. There is currently no word yet on whether RAW will stay in its Monday Night timeslot. However, due to how well it has done there for many years, Netflix is unlikely to move it.
On top of this, the show will STILL be airing live. It is the first time Netflix will run a weekly live program, especially for all 52 weeks of the year. The deal is bigger than some might realize. This is not just an American TV (or streaming) rights deal. The United Kingdom, Canada, & Latin America will also be seeing the show on Netflix starting at the same time.
There’s a lot more to unpack here. Let’s start with some early impressions.
Important Information On The Overall Deal
Netflix has an interesting clause in the deal. After 5 years, they have an out-clause, allowing them to end this deal with WWE. This means halfway through the deal, they could decide to completely remove WWE from their platform. However, if after 5 years they are happy with their agreement with WWE, they will also be able to extend the deal for much further into the future. Effectively giving them the remaining 5 years plus many more years on top of that.
If that is not enough, outside of America, all of the major WWE programming will air on Netflix. This means shows like SmackDown, NXT, and all of the WWE PLEs including SummerSlam & WrestleMania will all air on Netflix going forward for non-Americans.
After some other deals expire for the rest of the world, WWE will be making RAW available in those nations as well on Netflix. Eventually, Netflix will be the global home for RAW and all of WWE programming internationally. Once WWE’s deal with Peacock expires for the United States, the plan is to move basically all of their programming to Netflix. However, NXT will still be airing on The CW & SmackDown will still air on the USA Network for Americans.
Therefore, we’ll only get RAW, the PLEs, and other WWE Network-style programming on Netflix.
Including the Netflix deal and some international contracts, WWE will be bringing in roughly $1 billion annually for their television/streaming rights. This is, by far, the most WWE has ever seen for their programming.
Say Goodbye to Hand Wringing Over RAW Ratings
The tribalism and the Tuesday morning quarterbacking can stop now. No show in professional wrestling history is more scrutinized than RAW‘s ratings. Back in the late 1990s when it went head-to-head with WCW, people played amateur analysts. Trying to parse the success or failure of the product on some fast nationals and subs in the key demos.
Once AEW Dynamite entered the mix, it has only gotten worse. Well, the IWC can stop caring so much. No longer will WWE look at ratings. Netflix does not operate that way. Their interests are much deeper than that. Their attention is focused on minutes watched, hours viewed, and total audience numbers. For those of us sick of Dave Meltzer/Wade Keller’s analysis, Netflix won’t make most numbers accessible.
Netflix does, at times, inform us about how well programming performs. If something does very well or very badly, usually we find out the numbers somehow. Whether it is from Netflix themselves or via a showrunner who might have access to that type of stuff.
When they do make info available, people will try to make sense of numbers. At least we’ll only have to hear about it a couple of times a quarter. Thank God for that!
Say Hello To A Much Bigger Audience
Netflix has proven that putting things on the home page and in their top 10 always helps those programs. Shows like Suits that had modest cable audiences were smash hits on Netflix. While yes, to be fair, they did not realize a future English Duchess would be on the show…the overall show has performed incredibly well. Also, look at how massive Friends became again due to its Netflix audience!
Turning on your Netflix on Monday nights and seeing WWE RAW there should offer a nice boost in ratings.
The numbers could always bear out something different. If you hope that more people get involved in watching pro wrestling, this is a great thing. People will be closer to the product. The casual viewers or those who lost touch with the product may be introduced to it again. After all, people will often check something out just to see if it’ll interest them.
Regarding the audience that WWE will have access to, Netflix (as of this writing) has a little over 260 million subscribers. While those are global numbers, keep in mind that most of the Netflix audience is from North America. Across the United States & Canada, a little over 80 million people subscribe to Netflix. This number is much larger when you consider all of Latin America along with the U.S. & Canadian numbers.
Say Goodbye to The Longest Running Weekly Episodic Program in Television History
You would assume that a live broadcast on a streaming service wouldn’t be considered “television.” It’s the end of an era, technically speaking. Maybe Law & Order: SVU can survive another 10 years and surpass RAW. If not, perhaps WWE SmackDown, which will still air on normal television for the next 5 years, can catch up faster.
Either way, it’s the end of a run where RAW was a constant on your television screens. Long gone will be the days of switching channels between RAW & Monday Night Football. We’ll also lose out on seeing WWE help networks out by having them air newer shows before and after RAW airs each week. Which, funny enough, allowed WWE fans to experience some pretty cool new shows, including Suits that we referenced above. Along with Burn Notice and many other popular USA Network shows.
Say Hello to Stable Subs for Netflix
Netflix is looking to add new subscribers. Obviously, they are the most-subscribed to streaming platform…unless you count the whole YouTube thing. Yes, they still have more than Disney+ as of this writing. How do you keep that lead and how do you gain more? Adding a popular brand like WWE will certainly help a lot. Just look at what this has done for Peacock numbers.
It’s unclear how many new subscribers this will drive. However, it is clear that any subscriber who loves wrestling won’t cancel their subscription. Peacock understood this when it signed up to air all of the WWE PLEs years ago. Now, Netflix will get to experience the same stability.
Churn is a real problem for most subscription services. At the same time, the stock price is often tied to signing up new users. Yet you also want to be able to keep the ones you have. Especially when companies like Netflix do price hikes, which they did not have to do from a monetary standpoint. This means that now Netflix knows it can count on those subs 12 months a year. Which, in the end, could spell an end to future price hikes possibly.
Wrestling fans love their product. We watch it, and we never unsubscribe. Here’s to 10 years of paying for Netflix.
AEW May Stay Under The Warner Bros. Discovery Umbrella
One of the big questions was what would a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery do to AEW and their place on TBS & TNT? Those questions still exist, to be clear. AEW’s contract is up with WBD at the end of the year. Now, the path for them to stay is clearer.
For the wrestling ecosystem to thrive, you need more than one viable company. While AEW is a tiny fraction of what WWE is in the marketplace, they are still a big company with VERY deep pockets. Taking away a home for them might delight the AEW haters, but it’s a bad thing for the growth of pro wrestling. It’s also bad for the performers as a whole.
We’ll find out where AEW lands sometime this year most likely, but we’re glad that the path to stay on cable TV seems a little bit easier.
Don’t Trust The Dirtsheets
We aren’t going to name any publications here, but many were coming in with “sources” on where RAW would end up. The reality was that WWE ended up going somewhere almost no one mentioned. The same thing happened when the internet was sure WWE had sold to the Saudis, and that turned out to be a lie.
To be fair, WWE does indeed get a lot of money to run a few shows in Saudi Arabia each year. It is also true that WWE did speak with various companies about the RAW TV rights, including Amazon, Disney, & WBD. Yet no one seemed to know they were in discussions with Netflix.
We’re not saying the dirt sheets never get it right. When it comes to media rights deals and overall business, it’s best to trust the big media outlets to have that news. Those are the people who cultivate sources with companies central to these decisions.
Next time “pro wrestling insider dude with scoops” tries to tell you they know what’s going on in the boardroom of AEW or the TKO Group… keep scrolling. They might not be entirely accurate.
A Change In Programming?
What will be interesting to see is if WWE pushes the envelope on more mature-themed content on Netflix. That’s not to say we should expect nudity or foul language. Still, a well-placed curse word could be heard more often. AEW has done a good job showing how you can stretch beyond the PG concept without going too far (usually). You could also see more violence and color as well. WWE doesn’t want to go hardcore, but now that they have an open canvas. We’ll be interested to see what they might think of using it.
WWE may very likely keep to their PG Programming concept. Yet one can be a bit edgier on Netflix, so you can sort of push things beyond PG off and on here. Does that mean we need to expect to see the WWE do something more mature? More than likely, we will never see that. However, there are matches that often result in blood or “color” quite often.
It is harder to show those things on television as a result, as PG does extend to violence. Shows can only go over a certain amount before it surpasses what is acceptable in the PG territory.
Another thing to point out is that Netflix does not really show commercials. For the longest time, they never did. However, their new price hikes also came with brand-new tiers. Those at specific lower tiers have advertisements air before and after shows. Yet those who pay for a higher tier never see commercials, even for Netflix shows.
This will allow WWE to use all of those three hours to their fullest. The issue is that if the commercials do air during the show, they’ll have to avoid showing critical portions of the show during those commercial breaks for subscribers at lower tiers. It might be that they have RAW do a total of 4 commercial breaks. One at the start, then another for every top of the hour, as well as at the end of the show.
They can last for a minute or two, thereby giving WWE far more programming time to develop much deeper stories. To us, this is going to be the coolest part of the move.