How Netflix’s $5B WWE Deal Could Body-Slam Reality's Slump
Unscripted producers, execs see hope in the streamer's huge move into live feud-filled 'sports entertainment' as linear is 'depreciating ... like Radio Shack'
Hello again. Welcome to week two of Series Business, where we dig into all things TV. Thanks to all of you who wrote in with thoughts on the state of the scripted TV market — I’d love to keep the convo going. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, as promised, I’m turning to the unscripted space.
First, some backstory.
The 2007-08 WGA strike opened the floodgates for a reality TV boom (though that narrative has been debated). Surely, we thought, the 2023 strikes would be a repeat.
But the expected boom was a bust, with networks and streamers, having binge-ordered through the Streaming Wars years, already stuffed to the gills with content. Reality TV showrunners and producers say business was muted — and 2024 looks the same as budgets remain tight and Hollywood braces for more layoffs and consolidation.
Then, three announcements last week sparked fresh hope for 2024 prospects:
For starters, Netflix is reportedly reviving Fox and USA Network’s lusty Temptation Island.
Comedy Central is returning Jon Stewart to his throne at The Daily Show.
And the big news setting spreadsheets afire: Netflix’s $5 billion bet on the rights to live-stream WWE Raw every week for the next 10 years.
Still, prospects are just that, and there is the reality of today’s reality. Below, I’ll get into what unscripted producers and execs are worrying about right now; the state of unscripted buying on our old friend, linear TV; the sub-genre that’s actually having a moment, even in this grim environment; and why Netflix’s blockbuster WWE deal is about much more than just sports, and what its ripple effect might be on unscripted.