WWE rival sues over alleged illegal wrestling monopoly

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

MLW Media LLC has accused WWE and its general manager Vince McMahon of threatening content partners for doing business with MLW, to help protect its 85% share of the U.S. market for professional wrestling broadcast rights.

The Mamaroneck, New York-based plaintiff says WWE interference in 2021 caused Vice TV to end talks about airing new MLW content and led to a 40% drop in ticket sales after that Fox Corp’s (FOXA.O) streaming service Tubi dropped a licensing deal. the day before its public announcement.

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

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

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

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

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

MLW 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.

Shares of WWE closed Tuesday up 38 cents at $51.54. They are up 9% over 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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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited by Richard Pullin

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