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Monday, February 26, 2024

Netflix Secures Exclusive $5 Billion Deal for Streaming WWE’s ‘Raw’

Netflix has secured a multi-billion-dollar, 10-year deal for the exclusive rights to WWE’s flagship weekly wrestling show, “Raw,” as part of its strategy to diversify its offerings with more live content. The agreement, which will cost Netflix over $5 billion, will commence in January of the coming year, with an option to extend for an additional 10 years or opt out after five. In addition to “Raw,” Netflix will also own the rights to stream WWE’s other shows and specials outside the United States.

The deal was announced in a joint statement by Netflix and TKO Group, WWE’s parent company. TKO Group later disclosed in a regulatory filing that the settlements with five universities — Brown, Columbia, Duke, Emory, and Yale — will collectively amount to $104.5 million.

Netflix’s chief content officer, Bela Bajaria, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration, stating, “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.”

The streaming giant is investing heavily in live events, with the WWE deal being a significant part of this strategy. During a recent earnings call, Netflix’s co-chief executive Ted Sarandos emphasized the appeal of sports drama, noting that WWE’s sports entertainment aligns well with Netflix’s focus on expanding live entertainment programming. Sarandos highlighted that the WWE agreement should be viewed in the context of Netflix’s annual $17 billion content budget and not as a change in strategy.

The WWE deal expands Netflix’s portfolio of live programming, providing a direct challenge to competitors like Peacock, which heavily emphasizes live sporting events, and Amazon Prime, which has been streaming Thursday night NFL games since 2022. While Netflix has historically focused on sports documentaries rather than live sports, the acquisition of “Raw” positions the platform as a more formidable player in the live sports content arena.

Live programming can pose technical challenges for Netflix, as witnessed during a “Love Is Blind” reunion episode that experienced technical difficulties. However, the company has successfully livestreamed events like the Screen Actors Guild Awards and continues to explore opportunities in the live entertainment space.

The WWE deal signifies a shift in Netflix’s approach to live sports, with the company now viewing it as a strategic move that aligns with its broader business objectives. While Netflix has been traditionally hesitant about live sports, the WWE partnership signals a potential change in this stance.

The financial aid practices of elite universities have come under scrutiny, with five universities agreeing to pay a total of $104.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of considering financial ability when making admissions decisions. Brown, Columbia, Duke, Emory, and Yale collectively settled, while other schools, including Cornell, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, M.I.T., and the University of Pennsylvania, remain entangled in the litigation. The lawsuit targeted 17 schools, contending that they did not adhere to the need-blind admissions mandate when deliberating over wait-listed applicants, resulting in illegal financial aid protocols.

Despite not admitting wrongdoing, the settlements raise questions about whether these universities did enough to lower tuition costs, potentially overcharging approximately 200,000 students over two decades. The antitrust shield that provided exemptions to these universities expired in 2022, leading to the disbanding of the 568 Presidents Group. As the case proceeds, the settlements streamline the litigation and provide an advantage to the plaintiffs.

The recent developments follow Netflix’s announcement of a significant deal with WWE for exclusive rights to “Raw” and other content. The streaming giant’s aggressive push into live events and sports content is evident in its strategic moves to secure premium programming, showcasing its commitment to enhancing its content library and retaining a competitive edge in the streaming market.

Netflix’s dynamic approach to content acquisition, from securing exclusive rights to WWE’s flagship wrestling show to settling a significant lawsuit with elite universities, underscores its commitment to diversifying its offerings, expanding its live programming portfolio, and navigating complex legal challenges.

David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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