Rogers signs 10-year exclusive deal with WWE

Rogers in wrestling's corner for upcoming CRTC application

After wrapping up NHL rights for the next 12 years, Rogers Communications has now turned its attention to wrestling.

Rogers and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have announced a new 10-year broadcast and multimedia agreement that makes Rogers the exclusive distributor of WWE content through 2024. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the deal, Rogers will exclusively distribute WWE’s pay-per-view events throughout Canada. The deal also includes national broadcast rights for WWE properties including Raw, Smackdown and Main Event on Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet NOW and Rogers Anyplace TV.

Rogers will also “sponsor” an application to the CRTC for a new specialty channel called the WWE Network, which will combine pay-per-view events with original series, reality shows and an extensive video-on-demand library. Rogers begins previewing the channel Aug. 12.

Gerrit Meier, executive vice-president, international for the WWE, said that the deal expands on a longstanding partnership between the two companies, and aligns with his company’s goal to expand its international footprint.

The WWE launched the WWE Network in the U.S. earlier this year as an over-the-top (OTT) service similar to Netflix. Meier said the service has seen “very quick” adoption by wrestling fans. The service has approximately 670,000 subscribers, 90% of whom access the service at least once per week.

Consumer research found that 90% of subscribers are happy with the network, with 51% indicating they were completely satisfied and 39% they were somewhat satisfied.

“As we launched in the U.S., we started thinking about how to launch internationally,” said Meier. “On one hand it’s easy to say that an OTT platform can just be launched in all the other countries around the world, but if you spend a little bit more internationally, you realize that every country’s very different.”

Canada represents the first international market for the WWE Network, with Meier saying that Rogers’ strength and reach, as well as its multi-platform expertise and historic relationship with the WWE, made it a natural partner.

“It was an easy match to say integrated distribution goes hand-in-hand with integrated content, so we started exploring how we could make a deal that would allow us to more deeply partner in Canada rather than just going on our own,” said Meier.

“We’ve always had a productive relationship about how we think about the brand, so as we start thinking about where our weekly sequential program fits with Rogers, and as we were looking at pay-per-view distribution, we very quickly got engaged in a very productive conversation about how we could do something together.”

Meier said that subscribers to the linear TV service will also have access to the U.S. OTT service. Meier said that the WWE is actively exploring expanding the WWE Network to other markets utilizing a similar partnership arrangement, although no deals are imminent.

Disclosure: Rogers owns Marketing and MarketingMag.ca

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