WWE Q1 Earnings Call Report, Vince McMahon On Live Touring & More

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On Thursday, WWE CEO & Chairman Vince McMahon, along with WWE President Nick Khan and WWE Executive Stephanie McMahon held a financial earnings call for Q1 (2021), with Vince commenting on WWE resuming live touring later in the year once the pandemic settles down. What is detailed below is a complete recap of that call from start to finish.

* The call got started a touch late, starting at 5:09 ET/2:09 PT.

* After the initial declarations and legal statements, Vince McMahon took over and thanked everyone. He said they’re coming out of COVID and were in survival mode, but they rethought the way they do business and opened what he calls the “WWE Treasure Chest.” He put over the management team as innovative and finding ways to drive new revenue stream, new products, and new content creation. He said he doesn’t think he’s been as excited as he is now.

* Nick Khan took over and said since the last call there have been significant developments in the media industry that signals to them a marketplace that continues to put a medium on live content. He promised an update on new content and an update on a return to live events. He noted the recent completion of content distribution deals like Amazon grabbing the Thursday NFL package and how the NFL and NHL got substantial increases in their rights fees, which indicates increased demand for live content even with linear ratings down. They believe that this is indicative of where the marketplace is headed and that the majority of networks are looking at linear and streaming rights, and the days of splitting those rights look to be over for now. They’re content that their rights portfolio are positioned in longterm growth and says that they and Peacock were thrilled with the results for WrestleMania.

* Khan highlighted the promotion from FOX and USA for WrestleMania and says that it was a success for subscriptions for Peacock, which makes them excited for potentially replicating that to “key international territories.” He talked about their Tencent deal in china, which has seen a 30x increase in viewership in the country. He also pointed out their success in India and the UK.

* Khan also talked about new streams of revenue and pointed out their first NFT releasing, many of which sold out in seconds. They plan to do more NFTs in the near future.

* He said that they remain focused on original programming to WWE Studio including a multi-episode anime series sold to Crunchyroll and Young Rock which is a big success on NBC, USA, and Peacock. He also hypes the ratings success of the Steve Austin Biography special which was the highest-rated episode in 16 years, and that WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures retained 79% of that audience.

* Finally, he said to stay tuned for an announcement showcasing their return to live touring, then turned it over to Stephanie.

* Stephanie talked about the success of WrestleMania, touting their 50,000 attendance number, and said that it would be remiss if she didn’t mention how amazing it felt to hear fans from the stage. She said they felt the power of belonging and that it was a full circle moment, “providing a hope for the future.” She mentioned the new signature “Then. Now. Together. Forever.” She put over the fanbase to promote the “record-breaking performance” across platforms including new audiences through Peacock and talked about all the work done to make the launch happen in short order. She said one executive at Peacock called it a “best in class example” of how this sort of thing should work, and said WM was the most watched live event in Peacock’s young history.

* Stephanie said WM media coverage increased 25% and that individual news stories repped 1.2 billion impressions. She runs down the weekend, highlighting Jey Uso’s Andre the Giant win, Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks, Bebe Rexha, Wale rapping Big E. down to the ring, and Bad Bunny and Logan Paul’s performance and their success in audience. She noted the 14 promotional partners for this week including Snickers, Old Spice, Papa Johns, and Draft Kings.

* She talked about how Draft Kings is now an official gaming partner of WWE with their free-to-play pools, and said video views across WM week hit 1.1 billion and 32 million hours across platforms. Those are a 14% and 9% increase, and she calls WM the most social program of the weekend. She also brings up the Undertaker NFTs as well as the community activations for charity work such as vaccination PSAs and Special Olympics work, plus Feeding Tampa Bay.

* Stephanie hyped the success of Raw After Mania and NXT’s jump in the ratings in its move to Tuesday, then said that they’re excited to build on the success as they move to WrestleMania Backlash.

* She went over the key brand metrics: Raw viewership is stable since they moved out of the PC to the ThunderDome, and Smackdown ratings are up 9%. She noted that Bad Bunny’s appearances led to leaps in the Hispanic demographics and said digital consumption was up 7%. YouTube crossed 75 million subscribers and is the 4th most viewed channel in the world. Sponsorship and sales revenue was up 19% excluding an international event (i.e. Saudi shows). She highlights the creation of their digital content for GM’s Chevy Silverado and Old Spice and said in their view, WWE is well-positioned to continue to elevate the brand, grow business, and engage new and existing consumers across platforms.

* Salen took over and said transitioning WWE Network to Peacock while prepping WM was a major accomplishment, putting over the speed and innovation that the team put forward. She ran down the comparisons, saying that the 1st Quarter still saw a challenging environment and revenue was $263.5 million, down 9% due to live event cancellation and loss of merch sales due to COVID-19. Adjusted OBIDA grew 9% in spite of that, reflecting upfront recognition of their licensing agreement and a decline in operating expenses due to live event costs.

* The adjusted OBIDA for media was $107 million, up 4% on increased revenue and profit from Peacock as well as escalation of content fees. She said operating results continue to be impacted by the year-over-year increase in production costs, but they acheived efficiences quarter over quarter, and that the investment in the ThunderDome will continue into Q2. Salen said that they produced nearly 650 hours of content across the quarter on various platforms and continue to develop their original programming.

* Live event adjusted OBIDA was a loss of $3.4 million due to the 97% decline in live event revenue. They look forward to the return of regular ticketed events, but predicting the pace of that return is “challenging” and as of this moment they don’t anticipate it until the second half of the year.

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