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Netflix WWE deal is the most important in streaming history

OPINION: WWE is coming exclusively to Netflix in the UK from 2025, including live weekly shows and monthly premium live events. It’s a hugely significant moment that changes the course of Netflix’s future.

Netflix has signed an agreement with WWE that signals a huge change in the way it delivers content to users. For the first time ever, it is embracing live television.

From 2025, Netflix will replace TNT Sports as the home of programming like WWE Raw, Smackdown, and NXT, as well as replacing the WWE Network as the home of premium live events like Royal Rumble and WrestleMania and other archive content.

While Netflix has experimented with live streamed stand-up comedy specials before, acquiring the rights to all WWE content in the UK (and just RAW in the US for the time being) as part of a $5 billion global agreement, changes the proposition completely.

Netflix will now have multiple weekly live TV shows year-round. For the first time, Netflix is hosting television by appointment. Subscribers will have to wait week-to-week for new episodes, and those events will be available live as well as on demand.

Effectively this makes Netflix a linear TV provider for the first time and sees it embrace the week-by-week episodic model that underpinned the entire industry before Netflix’s binge-it-all-now model came along.

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And it’s LIVE!

It’s the latest example of Netflix gradually becoming more like the TV landscape it disrupted so effectively at the start of the streaming era. So far it has introduced ads, it flirted with live events, and it dramatically altered its attitude to password sharing as it flirted with balancing the convenience of streaming with what has worked well for decades in the TV industry.

Now Netflix has a chance to build an audience for a product week-by-week, rather than simply dumping a series in subscribers’ laps. It’ll have access to, for the first time, a phenomenally popular global brand with millions (and millions!) of die-hard, life long fans.

Live content is where the money’s at in the TV industry, and Netflix finally has something to match other streaming services’ array of live sports (or in this case “sports-like”) content that can be enjoyed anywhere.

Amazon Prime has some Premier League in the UK for now, while Apple TV+ has Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball. In the US, this trend even more pronounced, with Paramount+, Peacock and others all grabbing a piece of the pie.

Netflix will soon have year-round programming that’ll guarantee the loyalty of a certain element of its subscriber base, while attracting plenty more subscribers.

For those folks, it won’t be an option to drop Netflix from the monthly streaming expenditure until a bunch of new shows become available to blitz through.

Kid-friendly deal

As a kid, I didn’t have Sky so I didn’t have the opportunity to watch WWE (then WWF) television unless someone taped it for me. These days WWE is on TNT Sports, but there remains a similar barrier to entry for young people.

The deal with Netflix will bring access to WWE programming to millions more young people in the UK, who don’t have agency over the TV packages or streaming services available in their homes.

Netflix has around 17 million subscribers in the United Kingdom and that’s likely to represent at least that many households. Netflix costs as little as £5.99. People who’ve never been able to watch WWE Raw or Smackdown, for example, will now be able to. That’s great news for young wrestling fans.

A satellite TV contract was a bit beyond us, but I could probably have convinced my mum and dad to spring for Netflix for six quid a month.

WWE is going to be the most important content deal yet for Netflix… and that’s the bottom line!

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