Once upon a time, the main proposition of streaming services like Netflix was that you could watch what you wanted, when you wanted. But as the services have increasingly started bailing on creating original content that users could pick up from libraries, they’ve been investing more in live events such as sports. That’s part of the logic behind Netflix’s $5 billion, 10-year deal for the rights to World Wrestling Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw.
Netflix gets to broadcast Raw not just to its legion of dedicated fans in the US, but to those in the UK and Latin America too. Plus, it’ll eventually get the flagship Wrestlemania event and Friday Night Smackdown, which is still at Fox for the moment. The move will be an especially large blow to its longtime home, NBCUniversal’s USA Network, where Monday Night Raw was the channel’s No. 1 show and had been airing since 1993 (minus a five-year detour to TNN and Spike TV before Viacom decided not to renew its contract in 2005).
Shares in TKO Sports, the public venture that combines WWE and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, have leapt 15% in Tuesday (Jan. 23) trading.
Last year, NFL football games made up 93 of the top 100 US broadcast television events by viewership. Streaming networks have been scrambling to get a piece of the sure audience for live sports events, even if it means fans will have to spend a bunch more money to keep up with all of them.
In 2021, Amazon announced that it would pay $1 billion to be the home of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. Last year, Warner Bros. Discovery said it would start moving more NBA games to its Max service, and Apple was rumored to be mulling a $2 billion-a-year deal to stream Formula 1 races. Though fans had to pay $5.99 for the privilege, the NFL’s AFC Wild Card game’s debut on Peacock this year was the most-streamed event ever.