Netflix CEO Casts Doubt on Possible WWE or AEW Content Acquisition

As the entertainment industry continues to put emphasis on streaming services, the future of professional wrestling has been in question. Pro wrestling, like most major sports, has called cable television its weekly home for decades. The tides began to turn ever so slightly in 2014 when WWE introduced the WWE Network, a subscription-based streaming service that would boast the company's entire tape library and would air its monthly pay-per-views to boot. Other promotions followed suit, with New Japan Pro Wrestling debuting NJPW World later that same year while Ring of Honor launched Honor Club in 2018. 

WWE pivoted its streaming strategy once more in 2021, migrating the WWE Network to NBC's Peacock. Young promotion All Elite Wrestling does not currently have a streaming service or a partnership, but its ties to Warner Brothers Discovery puts it in a good spot to one day link up with HBO Max. Elsewhere in the streaming world, Amazon Prime Video got into the sports game this year with the acquisition of the NFL's Thursday Night Football broadcast, and Apple TV+ has deals in place for MLB and MLS games.

While multiple streaming giants pursuing live sports, Netflix has remained out on the athletics, and it looks like its going to stay this way. 

"We've not seen a profit path to renting big sports," Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said on the UBS Global TMT Conference earlier this week (h/t Variety). "We're not anti-sports, we're just pro-profit."

Sarandos added that he envisions that Netflix "can get twice as big without sports."

This casts doubt on Netflix pursuing WWE, AEW, or another professional wrestling company's tape library and live events. The streaming service has had wrestling-related content in its portfolio before, as it has partnered with WWE for multiple original movies. Netflix even once had two seasons of Lucha Underground, a short-lived promotion that combined regular matches with cinematic-style storylines, available to stream.

WWE inked a five-year deal with Peacock in 2021, making its premium programming a free agent come 2026. The broadcast deals for Monday Night Raw (USA Network) and WWE SmackDown (FOX) expire on September 30th, 2024. AEW is currently under the Warner Brothers Discovery banner until the end of 2023.