It was announced today that WWE Network will no longer be a standalone service in the USA starting on March 18th.
The rights to the service have been bought by NBC Universal in a five year deal to be included exclusively in their Peacock Premium VOD service.
WWE Network launched in February 2014 and currently boasts around 1.1 million subscribers internationally. The service plays hosts to all WWE and NXT PPV type live events as well as an archive of over 17,000 hours of content including past PPVs from WWE, WCW and ECW, classic episodes of Raw and SmackDown as well as original content such as the seminal Undertaker documentary, The Last Ride, released earlier this year.
The good news for fans in the US is that they can still access all of the content as well as the rest of Peacock Premium for $4.99 per month for the ad-supported service. This is half the price of the existing WWE Network subscription alone. For the ad-free version, the price will remain $9.99 (But will include all of the Peacock Premium additional content).
Whilst financials have not been released on the deal, the early rumour is a price tag of over $1 billion for a five year exclusive contract.
WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan said about the financials and the wider deal:
“We feel great about the financials. Otherwise we wouldn’t have done the deal. To have WrestleMania in particular — which is our Super Bowl — available [for no extra cost] on Peacock is quite different from other models you’re seeing.”
Peacock’s own Chief Revenue Officer and EVP called the deal “A transformative addition” for the service, adding:
“We have a lot of data that shows live events and sports drives a lot of user acquisition. The bet is that there exists a much larger total available audience [for WWE programming] than is on WWE Network today. WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters, and we are thrilled to be the exclusive home for WWE Network and its millions of fans across the country,”
Peacock Premium was launched by NBC Universal in July 2020 and attracted 22 million sign ups in its first six months. It is the exclusive home of the US version of ‘The Office’ in the territory and includes major movies from studios such as Universal Pictures, Dreamworks Animation and Illumination Pictures.
Clearly NBC see the WWE audience as one different enough from their existing subscriber base to drive new subscriptions to make their deal profitable. It is a huge, bold gamble that could pave the way for other Direct To Home (DTH) services from the likes of the NFL, NHL and NBA to be snapped up by streaming platforms in the ever more competitive media battleground where Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ currently sit as the standard bearers.
There is no word on any future plans to strike similar deals internationally.