Despite the ratings struggles that the WWE has faced in recent years, both on USA with Monday Night Raw and Fox with Friday Night SmackDown, I can't imagine any fans have ever worried about the sports entertainment giant disappearing. That pop culture confidence was proven to be justified recently, with WWE Network signing a mega-deal with NBCUniversal's streaming service Peacock, which will be the wrestling outfit's exclusive new streaming home. Lots of people probably wonder why that decision was made in the first place, though, as well as how much money NBCU ponied up. So let's lay those answers out on a table before leg-dropping them from the top rope.
By and large, the decision for WWE Network and all of its content to join Peacock's streaming library was one made out of necessity to a certain extent. For one, the WWE's subscription service was almost too novel for the time, and was created using a framework built by the MLB streaming media company BAMTech (now a Disney company) which was suitable enough for the time, but has become an expensive piece of digital infrastructure whose survival required financial and creative sacrifices made elsewhere. So with some of that in mind, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan didn't seem to have much hesitation about jumping over to Peacock. Here's how he put it to the Associated Press:
The big question internally was how much can you invest and keep pace with the technology? It would be a massive investment. We can drop the price in half and add [Peacock's] technical support. Ultimately it became a no brainer, especially with their reach.
Heading into the big switch, WWE Network currently costs customers $9.99 a month to stream its monthly pay-per-view events, its archival videos, and its original productions. Meanwhile, Peacock subscriptions are just $4.99 a month (for the ad-supported Premium tier), so wrestling fans can actually save money by flipping to NBCU's streaming platform, and without any worry about missing out on WWE content, at least eventually. The entire WWE Network archive should be available on Peacock by mid-August, but there will still be lots of shows, features and past PPV vids already there at launch, as well as the promise of upcoming PPV events such as Fastlane and WrestleMania.
Which brings us to the second big reason WWE execs were keen on changing over to Peacock: money, money, money, money. It's reported that the five-year deal between the two entities will bring an average of $200 million a year to the WWE, making it a billion-dollar investment overall. That's obviously a huge and welcome total in any capacity, but the wrestling promotion was in particularly need after the COVID pandemic made it extremely hard to bring in revenue for a company built around live events.
The WWE went from 300+ live shows in 2019 to around 42 events after the pandemic started, and isn't expected to revert back to live road shows until July at the earliest. (And Vince McMahon isn't exactly cool with superstars joining the gig community.) So it will definitely help all involved to keep TV and streaming audiences locked in while trying to figure out how to make Raw, SmackDown and others public spectacles again. To that end, Comcast's most recent financial report stated Peacock enjoyed over 33 million sign-ups since its launch, while WWE Network can only boast an average of 1.5 million customers. So the chance for success is pretty massive, all things considered.
I'm sure there are some WWE fans out there who see this as a bad decision, and may have complaints about having to sign up for too many streaming services. But in this case, getting the same product through cheaper means, combined with all the content that Peacock boasts – from new shows like the Saved by the Bell revival to classic NBC comedies like The Office, 30 Rock and SNL to current dramas like the One Chicago shows – is a win-win situation any way you look at it. Unless you're looking at it while The Miz is setting you up for a Skull Crushing Finale. Now to see if AEW and all of its former WWE superstars can make a similar deal elsewhere.