When Will the Super Bowl Leave Linear TV?

David Deal
2 min readJan 24, 2024

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Get ready, folks: some day the Super Bowl will leave linear TV and become a livestreamed event exclusively. The Netflix/World Wrestling Entertainment deal is just another sign of where live sporting events are headed.

Only a few months after Netflix dipped its toes into live sports, the company signed a $5 billion deal to become the exclusive home of WWE’s Raw from January 2025 onward in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Latin America. This means the WWE’s flagship show will leave traditional television for the first time in 31 years. When you consider the deal in context of the National Football League moving its programming over to Amazon, Peacock, and YouTube, I think the writing is on the wall: eventually premier sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Series will follow the advertising money and leave linear TV. The New Hollywood streaming companies will gobble them up. As it stands, the NFL recently tested the waters by streaming a playoff game exclusively on Peacock. which became the most streamed live event in U.S. history.

Raw is scripted entertainment, but it’s a de facto live sporting event — three hours of action-packed wrestling comin’ at ya. It’s the top program on the USA Network, with more than 17.5 million unique viewers. But it’s more than entertainment and sports. It’s culture. WWE helped big name such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin transcend become cultural icons. And Netflix prides itself on being a culturally relevant brand.

Netflix has been a follower in live sports compared to its New Hollywood rivals. But all that changed when Netflix introduced an advertising tier. Advertisers love live sports, which attract engaged, loyal fans who provide plenty of opportunities for targeting advertising. Live sports programming has been on the rise while non-sports content has been in decline on linear TV. While Netflix competitors have been paying for coveted NFL programming, Netflix has found its own play with Raw. (Netflix and the WWE say that Raw is one of best performing shows in the 18–49 advertising demographic.) Competitor Peacock has a deal with WWE to livestream “ Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania until 2026 — and now Peacock has to worry about Netflix snatching up those assets.

But New Hollywood is no longer in a position to keep piling on the content. A new era of cost consciousness means that streaming companies are making either/or choices. In 2023, Netflix released about 130 fewer programs last year than in 2022 (a 16 percent drop across its films, TV shows, and specials). So far, the scaling back has not hurt subscriber growth, and Netflix programs such as Beef are enjoying major critical accolades.

In the future, Netflix continue to gobble up live sports and have its Beef, too?

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