Jan 23, 2024 - Business

Netflix strikes $5B livestreaming deal with WWE

Photo illustration of a WWE Championship belt decorated with dollar signs.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Netflix on Tuesday said it struck a 10-year deal with the WWE to air "Monday Night Raw," one of TV's longest-running weekly episodic programs.

Why it matters: The agreement is a huge win for Netflix to livestream the historic program that's aired on linear television since its inception 31 years ago.

Of note: The deal, valued at more than $5 billion, represents a seismic shift for the entertainment industry as it transitions from linear TV to streaming. It's also a huge win for TKO Group Holdings, Inc., the company formed by Endeavor that merged WWE and the UFC.

  • TKO shares soared 20% to more than $90 per share in early NYSE trade Tuesday. Netflix shares nudged slightly higher.
  • "I think the word 'Netflix' is very important for this," Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel told CNBC. "It's a big deal."

Details: Beginning next January, Netflix will be the exclusive new home of "Monday Night Raw" in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Latin America and other territories, the companies said in a joint statement.

  • Additional countries and regions will be added over time.
  • As part of the agreement, Netflix will also become the official home for all WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., including its flagship "SmackDown," WrestleMania and NXT franchises.
  • WWE's SummerSlam and Royal Rumble events, as well as its documentaries, original series and forthcoming projects will also be available on Netflix internationally beginning in 2025.
  • The agreement gives Netflix the option to extend its partnership for an additional 10 years and to opt out after the initial five years, according to an SEC filing.

Between the lines: The deal is part of a broader shuffling of media rights at WWE, which was combined with UFC last year and taken public by Endeavor.

  • WWE's Smackdown franchise will move from Fox to USA Network this October. Its NXT franchise will shift from USA Network to The CW Network at the same time.
  • The newly combined UFC-WWE company, trading under the name TKO, has struggled to gain investor optimism, in part due to uncertainty around upcoming rights packages.
  • TKO has since struggled to gain investor backing, in part due to uncertainty around upcoming rights packages.

What they're saying: In a statement, TKO president and COO Mark Shapiro called the deal "transformative."

  • WWE president Nick Khan said Netflix is "the ideal long-term home for Raw's live, loyal, and ever-growing fan base."

The big picture: The agreement represents a huge investment in livestreaming by Netflix, which has said repeatedly that it's not all that interested in big-ticket sports rights.

  • Netflix first began to dabble with livestreaming comedy shows, and has since expanded its livestreaming portfolio to include award shows, reality programs, and live sporting events.
  • The company said last year it would host its first-ever live sports event featuring F1 racers and professional golfers teeing up in an all-star golf tournament.

Zoom in: In additional news on Tuesday, Dwayne Johnson joined the board of directors of TKO.

  • "The Rock" was a professional wrestling star for the WWF and the WWE in the 1990s and early 2000's, before turning to movies and other business moves. Johnson's grandfather and father were both pro wrestlers, a fact he reflected on in the CNBC interview with Emanuel, who is also the CEO of TKO.
  • Johnson said he's now got a seat at the table as a TKO director, "a table they helped to build," referring to his lineage.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include quotes from a CNBC interview and additional details.

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