New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) will air on the Roku Channel in the U.S., U.K., and Canada under a new television deal, Variety has learned.
The professional wrestling promotion will air a one-hour weekly series on the Roku Channel beginning Feb. 11 and will air every Thursday thereafter beginning at 5 p.m. Episodes will then be available on-demand to Roku’s estimated 61.8 million users for free with ads. Additionally, the Roku Channel will host a block of library content, featuring key highlights from the 2020 NJPW catalogue, with potential for the introduction of more historical content in the future. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Our fans in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are among our most loyal, and they have been very clear that they want NJPW’s content made available to them,” said Takami Ohbari, president of NJPW. “NJPW is unlike any other pro-wrestling in the world. It is the most athletic, sports-oriented pro-wrestling on the planet, and we are excited to bring our athletes and matches to these markets in such a major way. Thank you to The Roku Channel, and we look forward to a successful partnership that brings NJPW to millions of new fans around the world.”
NJPW has seen a significant rise in popularity in North America and the U.K. of late. The promotion has held large-scale events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and London within the past two years. That includes a 15-minute sellout of Madison Square Garden in April 2019.
NJPW star KENTA also made a surprise appearance on the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) TNT show “Dynamite” on Wednesday night in which he attacked former AEW champion Jon Moxley, potentially setting up a major crossover between the two companies. The move would make sense, given that many AEW stars, including Moxley and current AEW champion Kenny Omega, have wrestled for NJPW at different times with great success. Moxley is also the current IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion in NJPW.
“Expanding the breadth and quality of our programming has fueled The Roku Channel to one of the largest and fastest growing channels on our platform,” said Ashley Hovey, director of AVOD growth for Roku. “Sports programming continues to be an important category for our users, and we are very excited to partner with NJPW to put the world of professional wrestling at the fingertips of millions of engaged users on The Roku Channel.”
The deal will make NJPW the first pro-wrestling promotion to debut on an AVOD service. WWE recently announced that it will be moving the WWE Network over to Peacock, with that transition set to take place on March 18.
The NJPW deal is also the latest effort by Roku to build out the programming options for the Roku Channel. It was announced in January that Roku would acquire the majority of Quibi’s library after Quibi said it was ceasing operations.