In 2021, it was announced that the WWE would cease its dedicated streaming app, WWE Network, following a streaming deal established with Comcast’s Peacock platform for around $1 billion over five years. It was a ground-breaking move for the company, injecting huge sums of cash and bumping audiences.
To commence 2023, Vince McMahon looks to be returning to the head of the table of the company with his eyes set on the 2024 endings to other broadcast deals. Peacock will remain the WWE’s streaming broadcaster through to 2026, but contracts with USA Network and Fox for Monday Night Raw, NXT, and Friday Night SmackDown all conclude next year.
Much of the talk right now surrounds McMahon selling the company outright to a platform rather than establishing another batch of broadcast deals. Given the success of the WWE on Peacock and sports streaming overall, Comcast looks the best-positioned of the potential buyers being discussed right now.
Streaming Is Becoming The Dominant Force For Sports
As shown by ExpressVPN’s sports streaming infographics, all of the staple traditional sports enjoy good levels of popularity in streaming circles but, as you’d expect, football rules the roost.
With basketball streaming as the next closest, the two see a great deal more popularity than soccer, baseball, and hockey; but unlike soccer and baseball, hockey is the most dominant sport in at least one state, Minnesota. Outside of the big five, Netflix helped to propel interest in Formula One in 2021 and 222, while Conor McGregor invariably boosts UFC streaming interest.
What’s key here is that all of these sports have a strong audience that streams rather than accesses the content via traditional television channels. This is a continuation of the overall trend of US citizens switching from cable to streaming platforms.
CNN’s report broke the news that, for the first time ever, 2022 saw more Americans watching streaming TV rather than cable. It was found that 34.8 percent of TV viewership went to streaming, with 34.4 percent going to cable. Technically down as ‘sports entertainment,’ the WWE also benefited from integration with a streaming platform.
WWE Is Thriving On Peacock
While it isn’t part of what most would see as the ‘big three’ of streaming platforms, the WWE has still enjoyed a very strong start to life on Peacock. Not only is the platform making access to the streaming audience easier and more cost-effective for the company, but viewership of major events also leapt by 42 percent, per Deadline’s article last year.
The first WWE showing of 2023 on USA Network garnered 1.6 million viewers, but this pales in comparison to the potential reach on Peacock. In December 2022, it was reported that paid subscriptions jumped from 15 million in October to 18 million.
With the Premier League, MLB, and NFL also available, Peacock’s earning a strong reputation as the platform for sports fans, further enhancing the WWE’s exposure to ideal audiences. Given the direction that it’s going, as well as its appealing $9.99 per month cost for ad-free streaming, Peacock looks primed to compete for all of the WWE’s broadcasting rights.
Sports streaming is on the rise, as is Peacock and its current WWE offering. It would make sense for Comcast to consider a full sweep of the company and make Peacock the home of the WWE, but it’s a very competitive marketplace for live content right now.