WWE Tag Teams With Peacock for Streaming Rights

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This must have been a tough deal to pin down.

NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock has struck a deal for exclusive rights to World Wrestling Entertainment’s portfolio of content. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports place the five year deal at $1 billion.

Nation of Consolidation

While Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in the television production plans for many sporting events, the WWE pivoted almost immediately to filming on closed sets at its Florida headquarters, feeding the appetite of its loyal fanbase with new storylines.

However, while WWE’s streaming fanbase is considerable in size — WWE Network currently has 1.6 million U.S. subscribers — streaming growth hasn’t been as strong as the company hoped.

That led to the decision to tap out on the go-it-alone strategy and pair with NBCU, which has been adding more sports programming to Peacock as consolidation wars heat up in the streaming space. (Last week, NBCU said it’s shutting down NBC Sports Network at the end of the year and will migrate some NHL and NASCAR content to the streaming service).

Lucky for them, WWE fans came out as big winners in the deal: while WWE Network costs $9.99 a month, the same content — 17,000 hours worth — will cost $4.99 a month on Peacock (or $9.99 for a commercial-free version).

Beginning March, WWE will shutter its streaming service in the U.S., and Peacock will play home to its programming, including the wildly popular “WrestleMania” franchise.

Lock-Ups Over Layoffs

The new revenue stream should please WWE investors, as the company’s stock has been volatile for months. Before the pandemic began, in January 2020, its price had fallen to $48 USD from a high of $96 in 2019. It fell as low as $33 in 2020, but has recovered slightly to $53.

Meanwhile, despite being dubbed an essential business to the Florida economy by Governor Ron Desantis last year, WWE company laid off hundreds of staff. Company executives were heavily criticized for the decision, after the company disclosed it had over $500 million in cash reserves.

The Takeaway:

It may rankle feathers, but the WWE’s dual strategy of cost-cutting and adding licensing revenue streams is paying off. Through just three quarters, the company had already delivered its most profitable year in history in 2020: the third quarter alone drew in $48.2 million, blowing away Q3 2019’s net income of $5.9 million.