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WWE's 'Raw' will stream live on Netflix next year in major sports rights deal

Wrestling fans during the WWE Monday Night RAW event, Monday, March 6, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Wrestling fans during the WWE "Monday Night Raw" event in March 2023 in Boston. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

WWE's flagship weekly pro wrestling show "Raw" will be coming to Netflix in January 2025, a significant step for the streaming video giant as it continues to add more sports content and live events to its programming lineup.

Under the deal, Netflix will stream "Raw" exclusively in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Latin America and other territories starting in January 2025. The streamer will also carry WWE shows and specials outside the U.S., including "SmackDown" and "NXT," its live events like WrestleMania, as well as WWE documentaries and series in 2025.

Mark Shapiro, president and chief operating officer of WWE's parent company, TKO, said the partnership with Netflix will expand the reach of the wrestling entertainment brand and bring weekly live appointment viewing to Netflix.

“This deal is transformative,” Shapiro said in a statement. “It marries the can’t-miss WWE product with Netflix’s extraordinary global reach and locks in significant and predictable economics for many years."

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Netflix has been increasing its investment in sports entertainment and live events, hosting live a celebrity golfing tournament called the Netflix Cup in November 2023, which featured Formula 1 drivers and PGA Tour golfers. Earlier this month, Netflix and the CW network announced a licensing deal for Netflix to stream the final five episodes of "Inside the NFL" after they air on linear television.

The "Raw" deal is the first time the show has left traditional television since it began about three decades ago. It brings to Netflix a "huge and passionate multigenerational fan base," said the streamer's chief content officer, Bela Bajaria.

“By combining our reach, recommendations, and fandom with WWE, we’ll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members," Bajaria said in a statement. "'Raw' is the best of sports entertainment, blending great characters and storytelling with live action 52 weeks a year and we’re thrilled to be in this long-term partnership with WWE.”

"Raw" is the top show on the USA Network, where it brings in 17.5 million unique viewers over the course of the year, WWE and Netflix said. The show has 1,600 episodes and helped the careers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena.

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The deal is for an initial 10 years for an aggregate rights fee of more than $5 billion, with an option for Netflix to extend the agreement, according to a filing TKO made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Analysts and industry observers have often raised questions about whether Netflix should get into the business of live sports programming.

Last year, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in an earnings presentation in January, “We’re not anti-sports, we’re pro-profits."

“We’ve not been able to figure out how to deliver profits in renting big league sports in our subscription model," Sarandos said in January 2023. "Not to say that won’t change. We’ll be open to it, but that’s where it is today.”

In October in an earnings presentation, Sarandos said, "We are in the sports business, but we're in the part of the sports business that we bring the most value to, which is the drama of sport."

Netflix will release its earnings results Tuesday afternoon.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.