Netflix took a leap off the top rope to grab rights to the WWE’s Monday Night Raw in its biggest commitment so far to live programming. But despite that surprise swerve into the world of pro wrestling, the streamer is toeing the line about not bidding for more live sports rights anytime soon.
Co-CEO Ted Sarandos reiterated comments he made in the fall that while Netflix is “in the sports business,” it’s not looking to make huge rights commitments to major sports leagues.
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In Netflix’s fourth quarter earnings call Tuesday, Sarandos noted that the WWE is “sports entertainment” — i.e., one that has scripted outcomes and emphasizes storytelling (WWE impresario Vince McMahon coined the term, partly to argue that his shows shouldn’t be subject to regulations that sports like boxing must adhere to). That kind of programming “is right in our sweet spot, which is about the drama of sport,” Sarandos said.
Monday Night Raw will move to Netflix from its longtime home at USA Network in 2025. A source says the deal is for 10 years and $5 billion, an average of $500 million annually. It will stream live in the United States, Canada, U.K. and Latin American territories; Netflix will also have global rights outside the U.S. to other WWE programming, including Smackdown and premium events.
“It’s been historically under-distributed outside North America,” Sarandos added, pointing to Netflix’s worldwide footprint as an upside for the WWE. It will also add substantial inventory to the streamer’s growing ad business.
Raw also will have a regular home every week of the year, which differentiates from sports leagues like the NBA (whose media rights are up for renewal after the 2024-25 season) that has hundreds of games each season, but only for about half the year. Despite the WWE deal, Sarandos said, “I would not look at this as any change to our [larger] sports strategy.”
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