Prior to their investors’ call Thursday afternoon, WWE released their 2020 Q1 numbers, showing 60% year-over-year net revenue growth to $291 million with average WWE Network paid subscribers hovering at 1.46 million.
They added that Network subscribers peaked at 2.1 million on April 6th due to their highest amount of weekend subscriber additions (Friday-Sunday) in their history. On the call, they declined to say how many were free vs. paid but in their key performance indicators, they listed 1.6 million paid.
WWE stock closed the day at $39.07, but after hours trading appeared to look favorably upon the news, increasing to $42.50 as of this writing.
The XFL wasn’t mentioned during the call.
Notes and audio from the investors call can be found below by clicking the red button ‘Right Click Save.’
Notes from the release and the presentation part of the call:
The reason for the year-over-year increase were their TV rights fees, offset by a reduction in both live event ticket revenue and merchandise sales.
Operating income was $53.3 million, up from the prior year quarter’s $6.8 million loss.
A record 46 million hours were consumed during WrestleMania week, up 28% from the prior year. Digital video views increased 25% to 9.6 billion and 344 million hours were consumed, up 15%.
They addressed some of the changes they had to make due to COVID-19, all of which was discussed previously. They offset the loss of ticket and merchandise sales by reducing operating events and a “new model” for generating content.
Vince McMahon said the coronavirus only affected a few weeks during the quarter and that they will continue to produce “compelling content” in the weeks ahead.
He acknowledged that Raw ratings were off considerably year to year and said SmackDown has been fairly consistent. He said it’s a challenging environment, but that you have to take advantage of that environment and make it special. They will continue to look to create mini-movies like they did at WrestleMania.
He talked about how WrestleMania was “off the charts” for social interaction and that Network subscriber additions over the weekend were the highest in their history.
Notes from the Q&A portion (Vince McMahon, interim CFO Frank Riddick, Michael Weitz)
McMahon said they have several states ready as backup plans, ready to welcome WWE if Florida suddenly wasn’t an option.
VKM was asked about “soft ratings” during the coronavirus pandemic and how to reverse the trend. He said, “It goes to the product itself. It’s a different feel completely.” He said they are figuring out ways to adjust in this new environment, and that Raw has seen a lot of new talent that people are getting to know.
On the Middle East deal, Saudi Arabia wants to have another event but unsure if they can give the all clear for November or December just yet. They will just tack on the event to the backside of the contract so they won’t lose the money. They are still working on MENA rights, but it’s going slowly.
There will be no new video game this year.
When asked if they could film at Full Sail with a live audience practicing social distancing, McMahon admitted he doesn’t know what “live audience” will mean anymore (testing, distancing, etc). “if anyone know how to do it in a safe and exciting way, it’s us.” He added they will likely be first like they always are.
He later said he doesn’t know if the company will be in the live event business as they were before, saying they are going to be more content oriented. “It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity.” He later wondered if arenas will charge less in rent due to expected lower turnout which would then mean lower ticket prices.
McMahon says coronavirus caught everyone with their pants down, but they still think a Network deal with a streaming partner is close and that a number of people still want their content. A free version of the Network will likely come in Q4.
He went over how talent and employees are tested at the PC. They do “everything imaginable” including a sequestered hotel, monitoring everyone, forms, etc. Paul Levesque made an appearance talking about a company they contracted for specific cleaning and coating services.
He put over the talent and that they have risen to the occasion. He’s very proud of them.
Quarterly release notes: ratings, Network, merchandise, attendance
Raw ratings were down 16% year over year while USA Network was down 29% and the top 25 cable networks were down 5%.
SmackDown ratings were up 16% year over year while Fox was up 36% and the big four broadcast networks were down 6%.
Average paid Network subs were down to 1.4 million year over year from 1.58 million in 2019. Paid domestic was down to 1.05 million from last year’s 1.1 million.
Average live event attendance was up, but that was due to just 42 events in the quarter due to the coronavirus. They held 91 worldwide shows in Q1 last year.
Live event revenue declined to $17.5 million from last year’s $26.2 million in the prior year’s quarter.
Core content rights fees doubled to $133 million year over year while advertising and sponsorship was up to just $17.4 million from 2019’s $10.9 million.
Consumer products declined to $16.9 million, down from $20.8 million in the prior year’s quarter.
They declined to give an outlook for Q2 and the rest of the year due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Click below to listen to the entire call:
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