WWE rival sues over alleged illegal wrestling monopoly

Wrestling – WWE Crown Jewel – Tyson Fury v Braun Strowman – King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – October 31, 2019 Pre-fight general view REUTERS / Ahmed Yosri

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Jan. 11 (Reuters) – World Wrestling Entertainment Inc (WWE.N) was sued Tuesday by a smaller rival who accused it of violating federal antitrust law by monopolizing the professional wrestling market.

MLW Media LLC has accused WWE and its managing director Vince McMahon of threatening content partners for doing business with MLW, in order to protect its 85% share of the US market for professional wrestling broadcast rights.

The Mamaroneck, New York-based plaintiff said WWE meddling in 2021 caused Vice TV to end talks to broadcast new MLW content and resulted in a 40% drop in ticket sales after Fox Corp’s (FOXA.O) streaming service Tubi had abandoned a licensing agreement. the day before its public announcement.

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MLW also accused the Stamford, Connecticut-based WWE of instigating MLW wrestlers to break exclusive contracts and broadcast MLW footage without permission, to combat a five-year drop in its popularity. own programs.

WWE’s “predatory conduct and exclusion model” reduces competition and irreparably harms consumers by depriving them of content and keeping prices high, MLW said.

“This anti-competitive behavior must stop,” MLW CEO Bauer said in a statement.

The complaint was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

In an emailed statement, WWE said it believes MLW’s claims have no merit and intends to vigorously defend itself. McMahon was not named as a defendant.

MLW has said the US television rights for two WWE programs, WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown, are worth $ 470 million.

The lawsuit seeks treble and other unspecified damages.

WWE shares closed 38 cents higher on Tuesday at $ 51.54. They’ve grown 9% in the past year, while the Russell 1000 (.RUIE), which includes WWE, is up 21%.

The case is MLW Media LLC v World Wrestling Entertainment Inc, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-00179.

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Report by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited by Richard Pullin

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