WWE’s Contract With Hulu Expires in 2022, Peacock Among Possible Bidders

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During World Wrestling Entertainment’s third-quarter earnings call, the company announced that their contract with Hulu, which currently airs a next-day replay of WWE Raw, expires in 2022. 

After noting that the Raw on Hulu RIA rights expires during the “back half of 2022,” WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan said the following about their deal with the streaming service:

“In terms of the Raw RIA rights, we know from the data that there is a substantial and recurring audience who watch the program via delayed viewing week-to-week on Hulu. When we closed the Hulu deal in 2018, the media landscape was quite different, as we all know.”

The changes in the landscape that Khan is referring to, include Disney becoming the majority owner of Hulu in 2019 after acquiring Fox’s share of the service. Today, Disney owns 67%, while NBCUniversal owns the other 33% of the service. However, NBC’s own streaming service Peacock, became the exclusive streaming home of the WWE Network in the United States, earlier this year. 

WWE and Peacock

The WWE Network on Peacock deal was worth $1 billion over five years and has become beneficial to both companies. As we reported back in April, WWE had a first-quarter revenue boost, after the WWE Network made its transition to Peacock, which made WrestleMania 37 the most-viewed live event on the service at the time.

“We now all know that in a 2021 world, NBCU is a passive Hulu owner and barring exigent circumstances, NBCU’s stake will be bought out by Disney at Hulu’s 2024 valuation,” Khan said referring to NBCU’s Peacock.

For only $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually, Peacock Premium subscribers can watch every live WWE pay-per-view event, plus every WCW and ECW pay-per-view event in history, and thousands of hours of on-demand programming, including original series, groundbreaking documentaries, and shows from the WWE Archives. Peacock will be the home of every 2022 WWE pay-per-view event.

In addition to everything else Peacock has to offer, the WWE Universe can watch every episode of Raw and Smackdown, with current full episode replays 30 days after they air and every episode of NXT, including full-episode replays available the next day.

The Future of WWE and Streaming

With live sports being a big reason why people hold on to pay-tv, the wrestling promotion expects to create a bidding war between traditional media and digital media over their products. Khan noted that streamers such as ESPN+, Peacock, and Amazon are competing with each other for more live sports. “Both Apple TV and Amazon have been considered front runners for NFL Sunday Ticket,” he said. Since Apple TV+ is increasing their sports content then stepping inside the ring to acquire rights to WWE programming wouldn’t be out of the question.

During the call, Khan announced that the company, “recently completed a children’s animation scripted project with a streamer and will soon announce a slew of scripted and unscripted programming that demonstrates the weight of our content pipeline. This is an area that will continue to be a priority for us.”

Netflix has been acquiring WWE content recently and could be a possible partner for the children’s animated project, as the companies have been a capable tag team in the past.

Earlier this year, the companies partnered up to release Escape the Undertaker. The interactive horror movie was the wrestling promotion’s first interactive film on a streaming service and it featured WWE Superstars The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E) and The Undertaker.

They also partnered up in the past for the sitcom, The Big Big Show, which was a Top Ten hit on the streaming platform that starred former WWE Superstar The Big Show.  It hasn’t been announced if Netflix will be the home of the scripted series about WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, however, Khan did share details about an upcoming documentary that is coming to Netflix: 

Speaking of Netflix, we have seen early cuts of our upcoming Vince McMahon multipart Netflix documentary, which is executive produced by WWE and Bill Simmons, who did the acclaimed Andre the Giant documentary with us.

WWE may have nearly 70 years of history to their name but the company looks to continue to grapple with today’s digital landscape. As Hulu’s next-day airing of Raw rights come to a close, fans will have to wait to see which traditional media or streaming platform secures the pinfall and wrestles them away.

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