Facebook Nabs WWE Live Show Featuring Face-Offs Between Raw, SmackDown Talent Rosters

Facebook is bringing WWE’s performers into its live-streaming video ring.

The social giant has secured exclusive rights to a live weekly show from WWE, “Mixed Match Challenge.” The 12-episode series is designed as a single-elimination, tag-team tournament pitting male and female stars from its Raw and SmackDown Live rosters — and will let fans get in on the action by voting on certain elements of the matches.

The show will stream live in the U.S. exclusively on Facebook’s Watch platform on Tuesday nights, starting Jan. 16 at 10 p.m. ET, following “SmackDown Live” on USA Network.

Facebook is paying WWE for the distribution rights to “Mixed Match Challenge,” but reps declined to disclose the terms of the agreement. After an unspecified window on the social platform, WWE will have the option to distribute the series as VOD on its over-the-top subscription streaming platform, WWE Network.

Each 20-minute live episode of “Mixed Match Challenge” will be produced in a way that’s optimized for mobile viewing and social interaction, according to WWE. Fans will have the opportunity to vote on Facebook for the final competitor from the Raw roster, as well as which tag-team member of The New Day will be added to the SmackDown Live team.

“It highlights our ability to create content specific for a social platform,” said Jayar Donlan, WWE executive VP of digital and social content. “Fan interaction is a big piece of it… It’s kind of like being at an event.”

“Mixed Match Challenge” episodes won’t carry advertising. Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, said the company is still testing ad insertion in live programming and expects to eventually sell advertising in content on Watch.

In other words, Facebook is still essentially in the proof-of-concept phase of its video push. Reed said WWE, with a track record of experimenting with new formats and its strong digital footprint, was “an ideal partner to demonstrate how the live sports viewing experience can be reimagined on Facebook Watch.”

“Mixed Match Challenge” will be shot in the same city and by the same crew that produces “SmackDown Live” for USA. But the Facebook show will have its own “look and feel,” according to Donlan, incorporating tighter shots of the action, “bolder, brighter graphics” and 360-degree video.

The winner of the WWE’s “Mixed Match Challenge” tournament will win $100,000 to be donated to the charity of their choice.

WWE is slated to announce the tag-team partners for the show Jan. 4. The “Monday Night Raw” roster includes Alexa Bliss; Alicia Fox; Asuka; Bayley; Braun Strowman; Enzo Amore; Finn Bálor; Nia Jax; Goldust; Sasha Banks; and The Miz.

From “SmackDown Live,” the lineup includes Becky Lynch; Bobby Roode; Carmella; Charlotte Flair; Jimmy Uso; Lana; Naomi; Natalya; Rusev; Sami Zayn; Shinsuke Nakamura; and the fan-voted member of The New Day.

According to WWE, the storylines for “Mixed Match Challenge” will continue between episodes across WWE’s Facebook pages with short-form video and other content. WWE will also promote the series across its  digital and social footprint.

On Facebook, WWE has nearly 500 million likes cumulatively across all pages (WWE’s main Facebook page has about 38 million followers), and star John Cena is the most-followed active U.S. athlete on Facebook with more than 45 million likes.

Facebook’s Watch, launched initially in the U.S. late this summer, is available on desktop, mobile and connected-TV apps. WWE fans can follow “Mixed Match Challenge” on Facebook (at facebook.com/WWEMixedMatchChallenge) to add episodes to their Watchlists for alerts about new episodes.

Watch the trailer for WWE’s “Mixed Match Challenge”:

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