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WWE on Netflix makes pro wrestling mainstream in the biggest way

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If you are a WWE fan, get ready for there to be a few more of them around.

After Netflix’s seismic $5 Billion deal with WWE to show Raw on the platform, LIVE, no less, it means that the sports entertainment brand is about to be opened up to a huge new audience like never before.

As a wrestling fan going back to the attitude era, there’s always been an uncomfortable relationship between the true wrestling fans and the ones that dip in whenever there’s a crossover event, like Wrestlemania, and usually have some snarky comments about what they are watching.

But certainly in the UK, for example, that’s because WWE TV was never that easy to access. Traditionally Monday Night Raw was either shown live at 2 am local time, or repeated the following Friday. There was little exposure to it beyond that.

The WWE Netflix Deal

Yet this deal, which sees WWE double the value of their current arrangement with NBCUniversal to $500m a year over 10 years, will drastically increase the number of casual eyeballs that will be exposed to WWE content on a consistent basis.

It will no longer be buried in the schedule, or cut down to censored highlights shows – no, it’ll be front and centre of the biggest streaming service in the world and it’s soon to become unavoidable.

The deal begins in 2025 and the build-up has already begun. In the UK Netflix will be able to show not only Raw but also each regular PPV event and special live show. It effectively means that the WWE Network will be rendered obsolete, but that’s in exchange for piggybacking on top of a 13m-strong Netflix audience in the UK alone.

Will WWE on Netflix be like Drive To Survive?

WWE have clearly been aware of the impact of shows like F1’s Drive to Survive, which led to a slew of copycats for tennis, golf and rugby – but with diminishing returns. Doing the same thing again wouldn’t have moved the dial, so what would?

Well, forcing Netflix – who had often said they would not foray into live events – to forego that and sign this gigantic deal is the kind of show-stopping agreement that changes the trajectory of companies. Netflix’s share price is up 8% overnight, to cite an example.

But the most interesting thing for the regular wrestling fan will be having conversations with non-fans about what is, most of the time, an absolutely crazy event. It’s like beginning to watch a soap opera halfway through, except one with a very specific set of rules and with an insane set of backstories that people might scarcely believe.

TKO Holdings

Mark Shapiro, the chief executive of TKO (which is the merged company of WWE and UFC) called the deal ‘transformative’ and even that is an understatement. With all major sports clamouring over each other for long-term security over their rights relationships, WWE have landed the golden goose; stability over an extended period of time. It makes planning so much easier.

But for the hardcore fans who’ve sat through the insane storylines of the past, of love-hate Roman Reigns, of the CM Punk saga, of the rise of AEW, all of this might be difficult to explain to the person sitting down to catch an episode of Raw for the first time.

It will be weird – wrestling is about to go properly mainstream for the very first time.

Written by
Paul MacDonald