Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

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WWE has landed a $5B media rights deal with Netflix for its weekly “Raw” series in a 10-year pact set to begin in the U.S. in January 2025. It marks what is Netflix’s biggest move yet into live entertainment, giving the streaming platform with 247 million global memberships rights to a property that had been on linear TV for 31 years. “Raw,” which will continue to air on Mondays on Netflix as a three-hour show, has been airing on USA Network since 2005 and is WWE’s most-viewed TV property — as well as USA Net’s most-watched program.

Netflix in the new deal will also be the exclusive home of “Raw” in Canada, the U.K. and Latin America, with other countries and regions to be added over time. The deal designates Netflix as the home for all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., including “Raw,” “SmackDown” and “NXT,” as well as tentpole events like WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble.

This is the third WWE media deal struck over the last few months, joining “SmackDown” (departing Fox for USA Network) and “NXT” (swapping USA for The CW). Both “NXT” and “SmackDown” will move to their respective new homes in October of this year.

Mark Shapiro, Endeavor and TKO Group’s president and COO, had no concerns about Netflix’s tech capabilities in handling a weekly live show. Shapiro noted the timeframe of the deal gives Netflix and WWE a year to prepare for the move, and added he anticipates “massive support” from Netflix to make the sure program is a success

Shapiro also gave significant credit to Bela Bajaria on the deal, noting Netflix’s chief content officer has “shown a willingness to take chances and big leaps, big bets.” Shapiro: “She showed her true colors being involved in this deal.” 

Both Netflix and TKO Group, the parent company of WWE and UFC, worked on the deal in-house. Bajaria led talks for the streamer, while the other side was led by TKO Group CEO Ari Emanuel, Shapiro, WWE President Nick Khan and TKO CFO Andrew Schleimer.

The length of the deal (10 years) was a key factor for TKO in getting the deal consummated. “It’s a significant commitment on their side,” said Shapiro. “An early hangup on this deal was that we’re not renters. We love to own. So if we can’t own, then we want a long enough commitment, that if we pour our heart and soul into this partnership, you’re not gonna leave us three years later.”

Shapiro believes TKO Group is “sitting in a really good position” after these WWE deals and an upcoming UFC pact (that ESPN deal is up after 2025). Exact terms of the “Raw” deal were not known at presstime, but WWE got an estimated $1.4B for its five-year “SmackDown” deal on USA (around a 40% uptick from that package’s current deal with Fox). TKO Group was trading at $77.41 at the close of the markets on Monday. The NYSE-traded company went public back on Sept. 13 at $102/share.

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