Home Analysis: Breaking down the WWE-Netflix deal, its impact on industry, including AEW

Analysis: Breaking down the WWE-Netflix deal, its impact on industry, including AEW

Chris Graham
(© rafapress – shutterstock.com)

WWE is moving “Monday Night Raw” to Netflix in a stunning $5 billion, 10-year deal that more than doubles parent company TKO’s take for the flagship weekly wrestling show.

This, if it isn’t obvious, was exactly what TKO, which includes the MMA company, UFC, was looking for when it purchased WWE last year for $9 billion.

That deal was consummated on the eve of the TV rights going on the open market for “Raw” and “Smackdown,” which is headed to USA Network later this year, and “NXT,” which will move from USA to The CW.

The new deal for “Raw” dwarfs the take for “Smackdown,” which is fetching TKO $1.4 billion over five years, and what the company is getting for “NXT,” a reported $150 million over five years.

The move to Netflix will take place in January 2025, which leaves to question where “Raw” will air in the fourth quarter of 2024, with the current media-rights contract with USA coming to an end in October.

It also brings up other questions, including:

  • Will the show stay at three hours, or will the Netflix algorithm push “Raw” back to a more watchable two hours (or less)?
  • Can Netflix accommodate, via its live steaming capabilities, the roughly 1.5 million viewers that watch “Raw” now?
  • And before we even get there, will all or even most of those viewers actually follow “Raw” from cable TV, where it has been since its debut in 1993, over to streaming?

On that last one, at first glance, you might expect WWE to see a dip in its overall exposure with the move, but I don’t think so. The company says it is drawing 17.5 million unique viewers annually on USA, which is available in 72.4 million U.S. households; Netflix actually has a bigger base of U.S. subscribers, 77.3 million.

It would help in the exposure game if WWE would be able to use its cable and network shows “Smackdown” and “NXT” to remind fans about “Raw,” and I would expect that to be the case.

The other impact to this news is for the distant #2 in the U.S. pro wrestling industry, AEW.

AEW’s media rights are also up this year, and its negotiations with its current broadcast partner, Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns TBS and TNT, the homes to AEW’s weekly “Dynamite,” “Rampage” and “Collision,” were complicated by reports that WWE and WBD had been in talks regarding “Raw.”

With WWE settling on Netflix and its billions for “Raw,” that leaves the door open for AEW to re-up with WBD, and one other impact of the deal could be, the money.

“Dynamite” draws about 60 percent of the average weekly audience of “Raw” on Wednesdays on TBS, so that could set the market for the annual value of AEW’s three weekly shows in the $250 million-$300 million range, which would more than triple what the five-year-old startup is currently getting for its media rights.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].