Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Networks India will remain the home of sports entertainment powerhouse World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) under a five-year deal extension unveiled Tuesday with an expanded broadcast agreement.
Financial terms of the deal, which covers WWE’s weekly programming and localized content in India and the Indian subcontinent, weren’t disclosed.
As part of the agreement, SPN India will have the rights to air WWE flagship shows Raw, SmackDown and NXT, as well as pay-per-view specials live on its sports and digital platforms in English, Hindi and regional languages.
The expanded partnership also includes the rights to streaming service WWE Network, “which hosts thousands of hours of content to be made available to audiences in India exclusively through SonyLIV,” SPN India’s streaming platform. In the U.S., WWE, led by chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, previously said it was exploring making some WWE Network content, potentially big pay-per-views, available via another streaming service, such as Walt Disney’s ESPN+ or NBCUniversal’s Peacock.
“In addition and for the first time, SPN will curate content from WWE’s extensive video library, which includes live events, iconic matches, interviews with legends, reality shows, documentaries and more, on its own platforms,” the partners said about the new India deal.
WWE said it would also return to India “with even bigger live events.” The wrestling firm has in recent years featured Indian performers more regularly. Just last week, the team of Saurav Gurjar and Rinku Singh debuted on NXT.
Last year WWE held its largest tryout ever, featuring more than 70 athletes from India, in Mumbai. Four Indian recruits were selected to train at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.
Wall Street analysts have been waiting for the India renewal, as the previous deal was believed to have expired at the end of 2019. Guggenheim Partners analyst Curry Baker in a recent report predicted that WWE would remain on Sony, writing: “We don’t believe there were other serious bidders this past renewal cycle.”
Sony Pictures Networks India, and Sony’s Ten Sports before that, has had the Indian TV rights for WWE programming since 2002.
“WWE has been consistently ranking in the top three properties across all sports networks in India, dominating the sports entertainment space,” said Rajesh Kaul, head of sports and chief revenue officer distribution for Sony Pictures Networks India. “We are delighted to extend our partnership with WWE in a first-of-its-kind deal that will give us an increased exposure to valuable content and reach out to a broader viewer base across India on multiple platforms.”
Said James Rosenstock, WWE’s executive vp international: “India is a strategically important market for WWE, and Sony Pictures Networks has been an extraordinary partner in helping to grow our fanbase in the region, making it one of the most-watched sports properties. The expanded partnership gives our passionate fans new opportunities to engage with the WWE brand.”