Netflix slams into live events with $6.7B wrestling takeover of WWE’s Raw

Netflix took a big step into live events on Tuesday with a more than $6.7 billion ($5 billion US) deal that would make it the exclusive home of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw from January 2025 onward.

The 10-year partnership will put Raw on the streaming platform in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Latin America, among other territories, the companies said.

Outside the United States, Netflix will also exclusively telecast all WWE shows and specials, including SmackDown, as well as pay-per-view live events such as WrestleMania and Royal Rumble.

Raw debuted in 1993 and has produced 1,600 episodes to date, featuring wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins and Rhea Ripley. In the United States, the three-hour program currently airs on USA Network.

WWE’s Otis and Chad Gable while promoting a summer 2023 event in Detroit that showcased the wrestlers, who often appear on the popular program Raw. (Nav Nanwa/CBC)

In Canada, Rogers Sportsnet is the main home for WWE programming. CBC News has reached out to the Canadian telecom and media company for comment.

The media rights to programming such as Raw became a hot commodity over the past several months, particularly after the WWE return of wrestler CM Punk in November, with rampant speculation over which network or streaming platform would land it.

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, TKO Group CEO Ariel Emanuel said that 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,” said Emanuel.

After the first five years have passed, Netflix has an option to opt out of the deal early, or can extend it by another decade.

News of the deal sent shares of TKO Group Holdings, the parent company of WWE, up 21 per cent in early trading on Tuesday. Shares of Netflix were flat; that company will report its latest earnings later in the day.

Deal over ‘The Rock’ 

WWE also announced Tuesday that it reached a deal with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that will give the star the rights to his nickname.

Johnson will also join the board of directors of TKO Group.

Speaking on CNBC, Johnson did not discuss the financial value of legally owning the rights to “The Rock” name with WWE, but said that it means a lot to him personally.

“I owe that name everything,” Johnson said. “Without that name there’d be no wrestling career. There’d be no Hollywood career.”

Dwayne Johnson holds a microphone.
Dwayne Johnson has purchased the rights to his nickname “The Rock” from WWE, and agreed to join the parent company’s board of directors. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Johnson, a movie and wrestling star, has a business portfolio that includes his production company Seven Bucks Productions, the Teremana Tequila distillery, energy drink company ZOA Energy, the Project Rock apparel brand and the United Football League.

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