On the second night of WrestleMania XL, fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia were treated to a Universal Championship match that will live long in the memory and featured appearances from WWE legends The Rock, John Cena, and The Undertaker.

The match concluded with Cody Rhodes defeating Roman Reigns which completed “his story” by capturing the WWE title his father, the late Dusty Rhodes, was never able to win.

Under the direction of WWE CEO Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the company is entering a ‘new era’ that has vast potential inside and outside the ring. WWE is primed to develop its sponsorship portfolio and may, in the long term, seek a complete shift to streaming media, moving away from cable television to reach a wider global audience.

In January, it was announced that WWE had clinched a ground-breaking media rights agreement with Netflix, in which WWE’s flagship weekly program, Raw, would transfer from linear television to the world’s leading entertainment streaming service, which has over 260 million paid subscribers worldwide.

The deal is estimated by GlobalData to be worth $500 million across a 10-year period and marks Netflix’s first major foray into live sports. The streaming service will be the exclusive new home of WWE Raw in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Latin America, among other territories, with additional countries and regions to be added over time.

Outside the US, Netflix will also be the dedicated broadcaster of WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown and NXT weekly shows in the territories covered by the agreement and will broadcast WWE’s slate of premium live events (PLEs), including the iconic WrestleMania annual show.

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Netflix can cancel the 10-year deal agreement after just five years but can also extend it for an additional 10 years, according to a filing from TKO Group Holdings, the new owner and operator of WWE.

The most significant feature of the media partnership, which begins in 2025, is the vast audience that will have access to WWE weekly. On March 11, leading up to WrestleMania XL, WWE Raw generated a total of 1.75 million viewers, capturing the number one spot on cable in the United States that evening.

Decision makers at WWE will be banking on Netflix attracting a greater audience to WWE Raw, thanks to the substantial subscription count that the streaming platform has globally.

A YouGov report in January identified that 11% of regular Netflix users had watched or followed WWE in 2023. This indicates huge potential to attract a vast new audience to WWE, to grow its committed fanbase. Netflix can also hugely benefit from the deal, building its subscriber count by attracting wrestling fans to its platform.

Media experts will be fascinated to see if Netflix aggressively pursues further WWE deals to stream shows such as SmackDown and NXT which currently have media agreements with NBC and The CW Network respectively in the US.

Capturing the full media rights package would prove the platform is determined to be a disruptor in the live sports market. Switching media rights for the WWE’s less popular brand NXT to Netflix could be crucial in growing the show’s fanbase.

Currently, the development show does not have stars that can attract a major audience, but moving to Netflix in the US could be the game changer to bring new eyes to NXT and allow new stars to emerge.

The ‘new era’ of WWE could also open new sponsorship opportunities for brands to partner with the internationally recognized wrestling promotion. In March, WWE agreed a partnership with Prime that will allow the energy drink brand to serve as WWE’s exclusive official hydration drink partner.

The deal is historic as Prime became the first brand to have its logo featured on the center of a WWE ring. The one-year deal worth $12.5 million wins the energy drink brand center mat branding at PLEs such as Money In The Bank and the showpiece WrestleMania.

With the launch of a center mat partnership for the first time in its history, WWE is following in the footsteps of sports properties associated with boxing and mixed martial arts, which for many years have offered brands the opportunity of lucrative mat sponsorship agreements.

With WWE’s major initiative to grow its audience through the new Netflix deal, companies will be attracted by future mat sponsorship opportunities, to showcase their brand to a global fanbase. A future center mat branding deal to cover all WWE shows, including WrestleMania would likely command a significantly bigger investment than Prime’s pioneering agreement with the company.

With TKO having brought together WWE and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), TKO executives will be looking to close the sponsorship revenue gap between WWE and the UFC.

GlobalData reports that in 2024, WWE is only set to generate $29.41 million from sponsors, whereas the UFC is expected to bring in over $180 million, demonstrating the substantial gap in sponsorship.

Expanding mat sponsorship and identifying new sponsorship revenue opportunities will be crucial in the long-term commercial growth of WWE.

WWE has built some real momentum over the past 12 months, securing a new ownership structure, delivering one of the most historic WrestleMania main events in history, and crowd fan favorite Cody Rhodes as its poster boy.

The ‘new era’ of WWE brings a changed media landscape for the company that will showcase WWE to a greater audience on Netflix and could ultimately take the company completely online.

To grow in popularity will be essential in attracting brands to invest in WWE and expand its commercial income.