WWE’s ‘Raw’ to Move to Netflix in $5 Billion Deal

Netflix reached a multibillion-dollar, 10-year deal for exclusive rights to W.W.E.’s flagship weekly wrestling show, “Raw,” as the streaming giant broadens its offerings with more live content.

The deal will bring “Raw” to Netflix starting next January, Netflix and TKO Group, W.W.E.’s parent company, said in a statement on Tuesday. Netflix will also own the rights to stream W.W.E.’s other shows and specials outside the United States.

The agreement will cost Netflix more than $5 billion and last for 10 years, with an option to extend an additional 10 years or opt out after five, TKO Group said in a regulatory filing.

Hours later, Netflix said in an earnings announcement that it had added 13.1 million subscriptions for the largest fourth-quarter gain in company history. The service now has 260 million subscribers worldwide.

“By combining our reach, recommendations and fandom with W.W.E., we’ll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Bela Bajaria, said in a statement.

With the W.W.E. deal, Netflix greatly expands its stable of live programming, which also includes the reality show “Love Is Blind.” Airing live programs can be a particular challenge for Netflix, which experienced technical difficulties during a “Love Is Blind” reunion episode last April. However, a live Chris Rock comedy special went smoothly a month earlier. Netflix will livestream the Screen Actors Guild Awards for the first time next month.

The company has recently focused on sports documentaries over live sports. But adding “Raw” to its lineup makes Netflix more competitive with rivals like Peacock, which has made live sporting events a backbone of its service and recently streamed a National Football League playoff game. Amazon Prime has been streaming Thursday night N.F.L. games since 2022; Apple has signed a $250-million-per-year deal with Major League Soccer and an additional pact with Major League Baseball.

Just months ago, Ted Sarandos, the company’s co-chief executive, told analysts during a third-quarter earnings call that documentaries and behind-the-scenes shows like “Drive to Survive,” “Full Swing” and “Quarterback” were “the part of the sports business that we bring the most value to, which is the drama of sports.”

He added of live sports: “We’re not anti-sports. We’re just pro-profit. We have yet to figure out how to do it.”

The deal with W.W.E., which is sports-adjacent and features content that is live and largely scripted, may be a step toward figuring it out.

“The W.W.E. and Netflix partnership is a big deal,” said the Forrester analyst Mike Proulx, pointing out that the company’s flip-flop on live sports is similar to its change in strategy on advertising. For years, company executives vowed that the service would never feature advertising. Last year, however, Netflix began to offer an ad-supported subscription for a lower monthly price.

Netflix now says its ad plans account for 40 percent of all new subscriptions in markets where the plans are available. Revenue last quarter grew 12 percent from a year earlier, to $8.8 billion, while net income was $938 million.

“Make no mistake, Netflix’s about-face on live sports is all about advertising as the company doubles down on wooing big brands to, instead, spend their TV budgets on Netflix’s growing addressable audience,” Mr. Proulx said.

As the streaming business in the United States matures, more deals of this kind are likely, the KPMG analyst Scott Purdy said.

“Media rights are extremely attractive to streaming companies because you have a guaranteed audience who want to watch the big game, match or event,” he said. “This will undoubtedly impact how much content budget is allocated to live sports versus other content options.”

“Raw,” which started the careers of stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, has appeared on linear television since its debut in 1993. It now airs on the USA Network, where it draws 17.5 million unique viewers a year, according to W.W.E.

TKO, which is controlled by the Hollywood power broker Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor and was created by the merger of W.W.E. and Ultimate Fighting Championship last year, said in a separate statement that Mr. Johnson would join its board. TKO’s shares jumped about 16 percent on Tuesday; Netflix shares were up slightly.

The W.W.E. announcement came a day after Netflix said Scott Stuber, the company’s film chairman, who lured filmmakers like Rian Johnson, Zack Snyder and Greta Gerwig to the streaming service, would depart in March. His film team secured 18 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, second only to Disney among film studios.