Pro wrestling promotion WWE has announced Japanese free-to-air TV network Abema will exclusively broadcast WWE programming in Japan.
This will mark the first time that WWE’s flagship weekly shows, Raw and SmackDown, will both be broadcast on Abema with Japanese commentary after the programs are first aired in the US.
These broadcasts will begin with the October 2 broadcast of Raw, shown on Tuesday, October 3 at 8pm local time, and at the same time every subsequent Tuesday.
Smackdown broadcasts will begin with the October 6 episode, shown at 8pm local time in Japan on Saturday, October 7, and every subsequent Saturday.
The two shows will also be streamable on the Abema Video streaming service. WWE’s tertiary weekly show, NXT, will also be accessible on the on-demand service.
On top of weekly linear broadcasts, Abema will also exclusively air all of WWE’s monthly “Premium Live Events”(PLEs) over the course of the deal. From the deal’s beginning on October 1, all previous editions of WrestleMania, WWE’s largest yearly event, will be available on Abema Video.
Some of the WWE's top stars are Japanese, including the current WWE Women's Champion Io Sky, and the company has ventured to Japan in the past to put on shows. Most recently, in 2019, the company put on a pair of live shows at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan National Sumo Hall in Japan's capital, Tokyo
This marks WWE’s latest media rights tie-up in a period of major change for the company, which recently merged with UFC parent Endeavor.
Most recently, the company agreed on a deal for SmackDown’s US broadcasts to move from Fox to the USA Network in a reported $287 million per year deal. Raw, which also airs on USA, is not part of this move but is also said to be on the table for a potential new TV deal.
WWE also announced this month (September) that the company would be hosting a PLE, Elimination Chamber, in Perth, Australia.
Abema has also been extending and expanding its media rights tie-ups in recent months. In August, the service extended its rights to German soccer’s top-tier Bundesliga to include the 2023-24 season.
As part of the deal, Abema will broadcast 104 Bundesliga games live this season. While certain matches will only be shown on the paid Abema Premium service, all Freiburg matches will be broadcast for free, since Freiburg have Ritsu Doan, Japan’s number 10.
Abema has strong experience in the pro wrestling industry, which is massively popular in Japan. Abema majority owner CyberAgent is the owner of two Japanese pro wrestling promotions, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and DDT Pro-Wrestling, through its CyberFight subsidiary.