Well, at least Tony Khan can breath a sigh of relief now. WWE programming won’t be moving to the Warner Bros. Discovery any time soon.
The WWE announced that next January the new home of Raw and other WWE programming will be the Netflix streaming service. This is the first time the 31-year-old show will be leaving linear TV. The deal is worth $5 billion over 10 years.
For someone like me who cut the cable cord years and years ago in favor of “various forms of streaming services” not much will change. Being Canadian, I also subscribe to a VPN, a completely legal location service, which allows me to watch the American, UK and Australian versions of various services, so I am not limited in any way by my geographic location or the often anemic streaming libraries we are subjected to here.
The only bump in the road is when it comes to live sports. Thankfully though, we aren’t big sports fans in the Powell-Gallo household.
While the WWE’s decision may come as a shock to some, to others it is a sign of the times. By moving Raw to Netflix, WWE is actually getting ahead of the trend. That trend is that consumers, especially Gen Z who are now in the position of buying or renting their first home, are cancelling or not even subscribing to cable in the first place.
In a recent reports by Samba TV, one of the leading companies offering real-time insights and audience analytics, 65 per cent of Gen Zers polled do not have a cable subscription and in the United States the number of Americans who no longer subscribe to cable TV has now risen to 52 per cent.
Not only are these folks turning their backs on linear television as a format but they don’t want to be confined to any kind of viewing schedule. Many have grown up with the expectation of streaming the latest shows and movies when they want to, not when they have to.
This trend has led to the belief that very soon cable companies will jack up their internet prices to make up for the coming massive shortfall in cable subscriptions. It does appear that cable subscriptions and viewing will go the way of the landline phone probably sooner rather than later.
What is interesting about today’s news is that Netflix will also be the exclusive home of WWE content outside of the U.S., including its live shows and premium events like WrestleMania, as well as documentaries and original series. What that move will do is force many WWE fans to subscribe to cable or other services like Peacock for now as NXT will be airing on The CW, Smackdown heading to the USA Network soon and the other premium live events, will continue to be streaming on Peacock until those rights hit the auction block.
Although some minds are adapting with the introduction of so many networks having their own streaming services, the WWE weekly and live event viewing schedule itself will no doubt be a challenge to follow at first.
Another byproduct of the WWE’s move to Netflix is that unless something changes in the audience analytics landscape viewers and the media will not know or be aware of Raw’s weekly ratings any longer. Netflix and other streaming services rarely release viewership numbers when it comes to programming. The streamers may post “Top Ten” shows and such or random releases trumpeting how well this or that series or movie did but they don’t make their numbers public on any kind of regular basis.
Netflix needs this shot in the arm as its subscriber base has taken a hit recently due to cracking down on password sharing and dissatisfaction subscribers have had with its original content in recent years. Still, the streaming giant boasts 247.15 million subscribers world-wide somewhat bouncing back from the loss of 1.17 million subscribers in the first half of 2022.
It also has been on the hunt to bolster their sports offerings. While other services like Paramount, Amazon Prime and Peacock offer all manner of live football, basketball, and soccer games, Netflix has none unless it is documentaries or movies you are looking for — though some, like the F1-oriented Drive to Survive series have been huge. Broadcasting Raw is its first major venture into live sports. Netflix has also been moving its business model more towards broadcasting original content from other production sources rather than making so much content in-house. For example, in deal it made just last year, Netflix will be investing $2.5 billion in Korean TV shows and movies over the next four years alone. It has also been purchasing more and more reality television as it is cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper to buy.
With all the rumored suitors in the mix over the last year, Netflix wasn’t even on anyone’s radar which makes the news even more surprising. Still, the way the television viewership is rapidly evolving and changing, it should be no surprise to anyone that the WWE is getting ahead of the trend, at least where Raw is concerned.