Netflix strikes $5bn streaming deal with WWE in major push into live events


WWE’s Raw is among the longest-running live entertainment programmes in the US having debuted in 1993 – AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Netflix has signed a $5bn (£3.9bn) deal to stream WWE’s flagship wrestling show in the streaming giant’s biggest push into live events to date.

WWE’s weekly Raw programme will move to Netflix’s streaming service from January 2025.

It came as the success of the final series of The Crown and a crackdown on password sharing drove Netflix to its best ever fourth quarter for new subscribers.

The company tonight reported an additional 13m subscribers in the final three months of the year, taking its total to more than 260m and marking the best quarter since the early Covid lockdowns.

Revenue rose to $8.8bn, while net profit stood at $938m. Shares in Netflix rose as much as 7.7pc in after-hours trading in New York.

The deal with WWE marks the streaming service’s first serious foray into live events as it seeks to fend off competition from rivals such as Amazon and Disney.

It marks the first time in more than three decades that Raw will not be broadcast live on a traditional TV channel. NBCUniversal currently holds the rights, with the programme airing on USA Network and TNT Sports in the UK.

Raw will air each week on Netflix in the UK, US, Canada and Latin America, with additional countries to be added over time.

Netflix will also host other WWE shows and specials outside the US, including SmackDown and Royal Rumble, as well as documentaries and series from next year.

Mark Shapiro, president and chief operating officer of WWE-owner TKO, called the deal “transformative”.

He added: “Our partnership fundamentally alters and strengthens the media landscape, dramatically expands the reach of WWE, and brings weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.”

Netflix is believed to have paid roughly $5bn for the rights over 10 years.

Netflix has enjoyed success with sport-focused documentary series such as Formula 1: Drive to Survive and tennis series Break Point. However, executives have previously played down the company’s interest in live events such as sport.

There have been signs of a recent shift: last year Netflix held its first ever live sport broadcast with the Netflix Cup, a golf tournament between PGA Tour professionals and Formula 1 racing drivers.

In March, it will stream a live tennis match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alvarez, while the streaming service has also experimented with a live stand-up comedy show by Chris Rock.


Netflix is experimenting with different live format content on its platform. It recently live streamed a Chris Rock stand-up show – Kirill Bichutsky/Netflix

Netflix has been exploring new avenues of growth as growing competition and the cost-of-living crisis sparked a slowdown across the industry.

The streaming giant has hiked subscription prices, as well as introducing an advertising-funded tier and crackdown on password sharing between households.

The WWE deal also underscores the decline of traditional TV as audiences increasingly shift to streaming. Raw is USA Network’s best performing show, bringing in 17.5m viewers per year.

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it expected further consolidation, “particularly among companies with large and declining linear networks”.

However, it insisted it was not interested in acquiring traditional TV assets.

Raw has become one of the longest-running live entertainment programmes in the US since its debut in 1993, with 1,600 episodes aired to date.

The three-hour show, which combines scripted content with live wrestling matches, has helped to launch the careers of celebrities and actors including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dave Bautista.

Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, said: “By combining our reach, recommendations, and fandom with WWE, we’ll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members.

“Raw is the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year and we’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE.”