WWE First Quarter Earnings Call Recap: Injuries and Returns, WWE Network Growth and More
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios and SVP Financial Planning & Investor Relations Michael Weitz hosted a First Quarter 2016 earnings call today from WWE headquarters in Stamford.
Weitz spoke first and welcomed everyone, then went over the basics for the call. He reminds us WrestleMania 32 took place in the second quarter of this year, not the first. Vince touts the earnings and revenue growth, calling it pretty good. He also touts the WWE Network subscribers and breaking the WrestleMania attendance record, saying it speaks to the strength of the brand. Vince says almost all tickets were sold out when they went on sale and there’s a lot of brand equity in the WrestleMania name. He said they had 19 hours of primetime premiere content during WrestleMania week and subscribers watched 22 million hours, about 12 hours per subscriber. They’re very excited about new content. He said Camp WWE is doing very well in their on-demand section. He also hyped Swerved season 2 and the Holy Foley show on the WWE Network, then mentioned Total Bellas and Total Divas. They now have 650 million followers on social media and 450 billion video views across all platforms. He touted the strength of the brand again. Vince acknowledged the string of injuries going into WrestleMania but said they made pretty good “chicken salad” out of that. He said they have several wrestlers coming back soon including Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and John Cena. Vince said they have introduced 13 new stars recently, giving props to the NXT brand. He said they will have more talent on the roster in the next 30 days than they have ever had before.
Barrios spoke next and went over the numbers from earlier this morning. He mentioned Superstar Ink and WWE Game Night will returning to online platforms soon. They’re looking at 1.5 million WWE Network subscribers for the second quarter.
Now it’s time for the Q&A with investors. Barrios downplayed the recent WWE Fan Council Survey on WWE Network price points as they are always gauging feedback on various ideas and changes. When asked if they are looking at price tiers, he talked about how WWE has always tiered their content but now they have different platforms to work with like social media, broadcast TV and the WWE Network.
One caller brought up the recent injuries and said if it continues, we have an issue like the NFL concussions. She asked why they think the injuries are happening and how it hurts business. Vince said they always have injuries but they’re more visible now. He said most injuries keep talents out 3-4 months. He said nothing is more riskier and they manage concussions ahead of anyone else. They feel good about what they’ve built into the health and wellness programs, saying it’s better than ever. Vince says it just happens in this business and injured talents are replaced by new talents coming in. He feels good about where they’re at but injuries are more visible and prevalent now.
Total Bellas was not something in the original deals with E! or NBCUniversal. It’s a new concept they came up with together and Barrios said it’s going to be a lot of fun. Regarding the crackdown on WWE Network shared accounts, Barrios said it was just a minor change and he doesn’t believe the sharing that was going on hurt revenue. They continue to invest in new technology and content for the WWE Network. They also continue to invest in the China market.
A caller asked about Shane McMahon returning to the company and Vince said he’s done extremely well as one of their talents now. Vince said the current storyline with Shane and Stephanie McMahon is doing really well. Between 70-80% of their social media is international. They did between 900,000 and 1.2 million buys for WrestleMania 32 on traditional pay-per-view. They’re excited about the partnership with Tapout, feeling it’s a great fit for their audience and brand. Barrios praised the quality of the apparel.
They were asked about injured stars returning and how it relates to business, and Vince said everything seems stronger than usual when it comes to the mix of returning stars and new talents. A caller asked about social media and why they should care about it if it’s not bringing in much revenue. Barrios talked about how it’s big to have their content seen by users and how social media helps push the Network growth. He said strategically, social media is huge for them and he doesn’t get when people don’t understand that. They took a few more questions and that’s it for the call.
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