At this point, everyone has heard the news. The Peacock streaming service, a part of NBCU, has agreed to a five year deal believed to be worth over one billion dollars to absorb the WWE Network. As of March 18th, the WWE Network will be no more, with all of the content now being part of a new streaming home. This includes PPV events, starting with March’s Fastlane, believed to be a trial run to ensure that all of the technology is working in time for WrestleMania in April.
Speaking of WrestleMania, it’s got the potential to be the most viewed Mania card of all time, seeing as how Peacock is believed to have 26 million subscribers, compared to the 1.1 million the WWE network had. Comcast and Cox cable subscribers get Peacock for free. Others can sign up for the service for $4.99 a month with ads or $9.99 for ad free content, compared to the flat $9.99 rate the WWE Network cost.
Besides the much larger reach WWE programming is now going to benefit from, there’s a lot to break down on this deal. There are winners, there are really big winners and there are potential losers. There are other stories to watch out for. This is a big move, one that will be talked about for years to come. It’s too clique to say it “changed wrestling history” but it might in fact, do just that.
Vince Is The Big Winner Here
Of course, getting one billion dollars spread out over five years always makes you a winner. Beyond that though, Vince is the winner here for many reasons. First, the streaming service landscape has changed drastically since the WWE Network launched in 2014. Back then, Netflix was really the only other service of its kind. Everyone still had cable. A streaming service was a unique idea and despite throwing every possible effort they could at it, WWE never drew the amount of subscribers they thought they should have.
Now in 2021, there are countless streaming services. Cable is dying and the giants have moved into this realm. It’s not the future—it’s the present and with this increased competition, WWE Network had hit its full potential. It wasn’t getting any bigger. Consumers nowadays are faced with the decision of how many streaming services they can afford and with giants like ESPN, HBO, NBC, Disney and Apple now as competitors, numbers would inevitably plateau and then drop for Vince and company, no matter what hooks they offered.
So Vince set the trend. The streaming wars are starting to heat up and the big dogs need to stick out. Now that NBC/ Peacock has made a big purchase for WWE content and HBO has leveraged their relationships with Warner Brothers (and others) for HBO Max to have far more content than what’s on traditional HBO, what are the other giants going to do to keep up? Make no mistake about it, now that Peacock got the rights to the WWE Network, there will be more big purchases. Vince helped set the market and Peacock, while perhaps not as big of a winner as Vince, is definitely a winner in this situation.
NBCSN Is No More
Less than a week ago, it was announced that NBC was shutting down its sports channel, NBCSN, and its programming was going to be redistributed between the USA Network and Peacock. When this announcement was made, many wrestling fans wondered if the increased amount of sports content on USA would have any impact on WWE’s weekly programming. While we still don’t have any answers to those questions, this Peacock deal adds another level of intrigue to the situation.
The USA Network pays WWE a lot of money to air Monday Night Raw and its no secret that Raw’s ratings have been less than desirable for awhile now. It’s also no secret that NXT is consistently outperformed by AEW: Dynamite. With Peacock now being home to the WWE Network, moving the weekly programming from USA to the streaming service at some point in time could be an option, if ratings continue to decline or if there’s simply too much sports content on USA.
Over the years the WWE has become the unofficial gatekeepers of wrestling history, despite their tendency to re-write it. They’ve purchased entire video libraries to countless promotions so they could bring all that content to the WWE Network. It’s a safe bet that the days of WWE seeking out other video libraries from other companies are over as a result of this streaming deal with Peacock. Wrestling historians won’t be able to bank on one central location for all of the video content they desire.
Taking this train of thought a step further though, who’s to say that Peacock is going to want all of this wrestling content on their service? Will a time come when they have to make choices about what they have uploaded to their service and choose to lose some dated wrestling content that doesn’t appeal to the masses? Will that content just be gone? We still don’t know exactly what will be moving to Peacock, with the exception of examples given today (which included documentaries and PPV’s for WWE, WCW and ECW). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that our current idea of what the Network is could very well be changing over the next few years. In theory, hardcore wrestling fans who have enjoyed the Network for its vault of wrestling from across history could potentially be the losers here.
More Reasons Why Vince Won Big
While we all know that WWE wants fans back at shows as soon as possible, there’s a very real possibility that house show tours will never exist the way they once did. That’s a significant loss of income for WWE, which is made up for and more, in this deal with Peacock. Then there’s all of the costs behind constantly producing new original programming. It’s a pretty safe bet that a lot of the stand alone series won’t be needed in this new setup. By focusing on wrestling and documentaries, this is another big source of savings for Vince.
This begs the question of the long-rumored new NXT brands. NXT: India is in motion and there very well could be more. Is this expected content under this new deal with Peacock or is this something Vince could use to enrich his deal over time? More on that to come.
This is a big win for both WWE and Peacock. The new streaming service landed a huge boost to their platform, which should help them compete in the streaming wars. WWE made a lot of money, strengthened their relationship with NBCU and potentially has brought a lot of new eyes to their product. We’re going to see many more smaller streaming services get bought out by larger ones and Vince jumped ahead of the trend, which makes him look to be smart. It’s good business for both sides here.
The days of $50 PPV events are long gone and starting this year, many people have the opportunity to watch WWE and WrestleMania specifically, for next to nothing, or even free in some cases. Say what you will about Vince McMahon but this was a deal that he’ll be remembered for, a deal that had the ability to change wrestling for many years to come.