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WWE Exec Thinks ‘Raw,’ ‘SmackDown’ Could Move Exclusively to Streaming

Jeff Kotuby

Could WWE’s flagship programs one day find themselves on Netflix or another streaming platform? WWE execs certainly think so.

During the company’s second-quarter 2022 earnings call, WWE co-CEO and president Nick Khan said that the company has seen an increase in the number of streaming companies vying for live entertainment and are not opposed to the WWE going that route. Khan cites Netflix's recent bid for Formula 1, Google's bid for NFL Sunday Ticket, and Apple’s current deals with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer as indicators that a streaming entity could make a play for WWE programming. WWE’s current U.S. rights deals with NBCUniversal and FOX end soon and the company is already looking for its next play.

While pro wrestling’s ratings are a far cry from their apex back in the mid-to-late ’90s, it still consistently draws well. “Raw” and “Smackdown” receive over a million viewers each week on USA Network and FOX respectively, while WWE’s main competition, All Elite Wrestling, draws around 1 million viewers per week on TBS.

Live entertainment draws, as Khan said to shareholders, “As we know, there is no type of programming more valuable to sponsors than live. As the streaming landscape matures and sports become a core offering on these services, we believe our product’s three-pronged ability to draw on viewers, retain viewers year-round, and amass large audiences that sponsors love week to week, puts WWE in a small group of premium properties for any media company.”

Despite the talk of moving platforms, Khan makes it clear that the company’s partnerships with NBCUniversal and FOX will play a major role in any business decision.

“On the right side for us, number one, most important in the U.S. are our incumbent partners, FOX and obviously, NBCU,” he said. “NBCU encompasses Peacock, so we always go to them. We always talk to them first about anything going on. Obviously, FOX is a big bet … If you look at the ratings across the board on network, live continues to deliver. It also delivers on streaming.”

WWE’s trademark event, WrestleMania, was a huge success in both new and existing customer engagement when its 38th edition aired this April exclusively on Peacock in the United States. According to reports, there was an 18.9% year-over-year increase in engagement for WrestleMania 38 vs. WrestleMania 37, and 71.9% of the WrestleMania 38 audience were new engagers this year, having not engaged with WrestleMania 37 at all.

Above all else, WWE wants to make its programming accessible.

“It’s always important to us that the access to the content is easy,” Khan said. “So if you look at our current U.S. situation, we have a broadcast deal with FOX, basic cable deal with ‘Raw,’ streaming deal with our premium live events with Peacock. We like that balance because it allowed us to test it out. Well, certainly, Peacock was still new and streaming was getting to become the norm rather than the exception. So it’s something we look at often. We thought Formula One was smart, for whatever that’s worth, in sticking with their incumbent and passing on a little bit more money to take a test for a streaming-only option. We’ll see. It all comes down to the dollars and value to the shareholders. So depending on what the marketplace says, we’ll take it all into consideration.”

Say what you will about WWE, they’re always looking forward. Now under a new management triumvirate of Nick Khan, Stephanie McMahon, and Paul “Triple H” Levesque, we could see some big moves from WWE moving forward.

Peacock

Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 70,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series. Peacock is home to “Yellowstone,” and “The Office,” as well as original hits like “Bel-Air.”

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Peacock also now includes the entire library of Bravo shows and has exclusives like “Below Deck: Down Under.”

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like “Parks and Recreation,” and the entire Dick Wolf library including “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire.”

You can also watch live sports including Sunday Night Football, Premier League, and exclusive MLB games. Peacock is also the exclusive home to many WWE events like WrestleMania.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

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