For several years, one singular question has persisted in media circles: When will Netflix get into the sports game? I don’t know that anyone ever pegged the WWE as its first partner.
So it was quite a shock to see the announcement that Monday Night Raw would begin airing on Netflix in 2025 as part of a massive $5 billion deal.
Make no mistake about it: this is an absolute win for the wrestling promotion. There is simply no other way to view it. You could argue it might be a bad thing for the WWE to put its marquee TV product on a streaming-only platform, but this isn’t your average streaming service. This is Netflix. Thee streaming service. By the time the contract begins, Netflix will be in as many — if not more — homes than cable.
But the intrigue will be there from non-sports entertainment fans, too. I’m sure the WWE doesn’t have much negative to say about USA Network, but it is one of those channels you have to go specifically find. On Netflix? Monday Night Raw is absolutely going to be featured front-and-center on the preeminent streaming platform, which will make it drastically easier to draw in new fans.
However, I think it’s important to view this deal from a 1,000-foot view and look at where things looked headed before the Netflix deal. After it was announced FOX Sports wasn’t going to retain its rights for SmackDown and the show would be moving to USA, there were major questions about what players were going to be interested in shelling out the money that Monday Night Raw would command.
The WWE’s biggest TV property — outside of its standalone pay-per-view events like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania — was hitting the market at one of the worst times in recent memory. The NBA TV deal is coming up, NASCAR recently struck a new deal, the College Football Playoffs are expanding, and not to mention a college conference with more than 100 years of history just collapsed explicitly because it didn’t get the television revenue it expected.
No one had any reason to expect Netflix would be a major player or a potential savior for the promotion. It had shown lukewarm — which is probably being kind — interest in being a home for sports content outside of a documentary series here and there.
But to its credit, the WWE isn’t on a similar playing field as the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, college football, or whatever league you’d like to point out. The company’s brand is built around storytelling, which the streaming platform is obviously going to be interested in.
I’ve shared in this space before I’m the casualist of casual WWE fans. I’ll watch the Royal Rumble on Saturday (and likely say “Who the f— is that guy?” several times), and won’t watch again until Wrestlemania. But I can’t pretend that it won’t be significantly easier for me to engage with the company’s content going forward when it begins airing Monday Night Raw on Netflix in 2025.
My immediate reaction to seeing the news was questioning what the partnership means for the future of the WWE Network, which is currently housed on Peacock. There is still plenty of time to figure that out, but if things go well between Netflix and WWE in the first portion of the deal, could an expanded partnership be on the horizon?
Let’s not put the cart before the horse.
Ultimately, a Netflix and WWE partnership makes plenty of sense. Despite it not being a landing spot that jumped off the page over and over again, WWE brass deserve high praise for their ability to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the proverbial hat. At a time when it appeared as if options for Monday Night Raw were dwindling, the company’s executives pulled off a deal that not only gives the promotion a boatload of cash, but also puts it in one of the most envious positions in all of sports media — on the front page of the streaming revolution.
It’s a win for the WWE, as it now sees a massive expanded reach. It’s a win for Netflix, who can now justify an increase — and potentially a drastic one at that — in its subscription fees. The wrestling promotion will make a boatload of money in merchandise, branded segments, and other avenues with the deal, and the streaming platform will make boatloads of money from new subscriptions, advertising revenue (don’t think for one second that you’re about to get three hours of uninterrupted Monday Night Raw), and other avenues.
It’s a rare media rights deal that both sides and walk out of the meeting room feeling incredibly good about the deal just struck.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also the radio play-by-play voice of Northern Michigan University hockey. Reach him at [email protected].
ESPN 97.5 in Houston Announces New Lineup
“The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week.”
ESPN 97.5 in Houston announced they will have a new lineup starting Monday Feb. 26. The drive time slots will continue to feature John Granato and Lance Zierlein in mornings and The Killer B’s, Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank, in the afternoon.
In between the two shows will now have The Del Olaleye Show airing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by Gallant and George with Paul Gallant, who had been hosting the early midday slot previously and Joe George, the station’s Assistant Program Director.
Earlier this week, Josh Beard and Michael Connor confirmed they had been let go from the station after being in the midday slot for just six months. George posted on X at the time, “So here’s the deal. The station had to make some very tough & unfortunate economic decisions last week. It has nothing to do with the quality of their show and work they did. Programming on the station will be weird this week, then back to fully local from 7 am – 6 pm on 2/26.”
Former Toronto Blue Jays Announcer Ben Wagner Named to Baltimore Orioles Broadcast Team
A release from the Blue Jays says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Baltimore Orioles announced the club’s broadcast talent lineup for the 2024 season, which includes former Toronto Blue Jays announcer Ben Wagner. Wagner had served as the radio voice of the Blue Jays for the last six seasons before Sportsnet announced it decided not to renew his contract. Prior to joining the Blue Jays broadcast team, Wagner spent 11 seasons with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. A release from the Orioles says Wagner will appear on radio and select television broadcasts throughout the year.
The Orioles will continue to use guest analysts throughout the season, including Orioles Hall of Famers Mike Devereaux and Brian Roberts, as well as former Orioles Brad Brach and Dave Johnson.
Geoff Arnold will return for his fifth season with the Orioles broadcast team and will be the primary play-by-play announcer. Kevin Brown will be in his third season as the primary television play-by-play announcer for MASN.
Other team members for the 2024 season include Scott Garceau, Brett Hollander, Rob Long, Ben McDonald, Melanie Newman and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who will be in his 32nd season as an analyst and 61st year as a member of the Orioles organization.
Fred Toucher: ‘I Would Feel Weird’ if Rich Shertenlieb Reached Out to Me
“Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me.”
Fred Toucher is in the midst of co-hosting a new morning program on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Rob “Hardy” Poole. The Toucher & Hardy show made its premiere in January following the end of a 17-year run in which he worked alongside Rich Shertenlieb. Last November, Shertenlieb parted ways with the outlet that elicited questions and nostalgia from listeners, some of which continue to persist on the new program.
On Friday’s edition of the program, a caller asked Toucher about the last time he spoke to Shertenlieb and if there was still communication between them. The duo started hosting their radio program together at rock radio station WBCN-FM before making the move to the sports talk format with 98.5 The Sports Hub (WBZ-FM) for its launch in the summer of 2009. The caller wanted to specifically hear a “juicy story” and apologized if his broaching the topic was “a forbidden path.”
“I have not talked to Rich,” Toucher said. “I told you I got the text message the Saturday after they didn’t put him on the air anymore, and I haven’t talked to him.”
Toucher wondered who among former members of the Toucher & Rich program had heard from Shertenlieb, leading him to go around the studio and ask. Update anchor Jon Wallach revealed that Shertenlieb texted him on Thanksgiving Day to discuss how the music group Bell Biv DeVoe was performing, but he has not heard from him since. None of the others in the studio had heard from Shertenlieb in a considerable amount of time either.
“None of us were really friends with him so I don’t know what to tell you,” Toucher replied to the caller. “I wasn’t friends with him; I didn’t talk to him, so it’s not odd that I don’t talk to him.”
Toucher then began to hypothesize what would happen if Shertenlieb were to reach out to him. As he thought over such a potential occurrence, he realized that he would have a feeling in his stomach and get anxiety. He did concede, however, that if someone paid him a large sum of money to appear somewhere with Shertenlieb, he would do the 10 seconds.
“I would feel weird; I wouldn’t enjoy the process,” Toucher said. “Even if it was nice, I wouldn’t like it, so if he’s listening, don’t reach out to me. You’d make me incredibly uncomfortable. Just don’t do it.”
In thinking about the potential nostalgia from Toucher & Rich, the program briefly mentioned Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo and his relationship with former co-host Mike Francesa. Toucher believes that Russo is doing fine without Francesa, a sentiment Wallach concurred. Wallach also shared that he feels Russo is doing better after Mike and the Mad Dog than Francesa.
Russo hosts a SiriusXM program on the Mad Dog Sports Radio channel named after him, in addition to High Heat on MLB Network and a weekly appearance on ESPN’s First Take. The split between both shows elicited interest from the listening public, something Toucher completely understands because of the unique facets of radio.
“People consume you 20 hours a week or they conceivably could, so when there’s any change, your immediate reaction to it, even though it hasn’t been bad, a lot of people if you listen to an old thing all the time it’s going to be strange to you, a new thing, or when a component of it is missing,” Toucher explained, “even if it’s better than it was, which I contend Toucher & Hardy over the last three weeks is better than Toucher & Rich was in 2023 and 2022 certainly.”
The segment concluded with Toucher proclaiming that he had answered the question and now will not have to entertain it again. “I have no idea what he’s doing and no one I know does, and no one I know has seen him,” Toucher said. “I haven’t even had a listener email me and go, ‘I saw him.’”