5/4 WWE Conference Call: Vince McMahon discusses the first quarter financial report

Vince McMahon and members of senior management served as the hosts of a conference call pertaining to the 2017 first quarter financial report that was released on May 4, 2017. The following are the highlights of the call. Refresh the page for the latest updates.

-The call is hosted by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, WWE Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios, and Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson, and and WWE Investor Relations Michael Weitz.

-Vince McMahon said they performed well and pointed to live event attendance. He also spoke about content having four billion social media views. Vince said Raw and Smackdown “continue to hold their own and do better than that.” He also conceded they hoped to reach 2 million network subscribers coming out of WrestleMania, but they came up shy with 1.95 million subscribers (the number includes unpaid subscribers).

-Barrios read through the financial earnings presentation. Wilson added additional notes and spoke about new network content including the 32-woman tournament, and new WWE 24 documentaries. She also mentioned the company’s ability to attract bluechip sponsors such as KFC

-Barrios said they expect “at least 1.63 million paid subscribers” at the end of the second quarter.

-They opened the phone lines for questions.

-A caller said they have a lot of data on their customers than most and questioned whether they will leverage that data. “Absolutely,” she said. She added that one on one marketing is their goal.

-The caller asked if bringing WWE Network to China is a possibility. Barrios noted that WrestleMania was made available in China in English and Manderin on a pay basis for the first time.

-Barrios declined to comment on a question about the possibility of there being outstanding legal issues outside of a one-time charge in this quarter.

-A caller asked about the expiration dates of the domestic Raw and Smackdown dates. Barrios noted it expires at the end of the third quarter of 2019, and their larger overseas deals expire at the end of the same year. He said they will not provide updates on the negotiations.

-The caller asked about networking tiering. Wilson said they are still evaluating the possibility.

-The next caller asked about a UK show appearing on the network. Wilson spoke about the success of the tournament and said they are looking at a UK weekly show. She said Paul Levesque and his team continue to look at local talent for that. She said there’s nothing new to announce. She once again brought up the women’s tournament and said there goal is for it to debut sometime in the third quarter.

-The next caller asked about long-term subscriber aspirations and the mile markers that has caused it to appear to be gliding to the 1.8 million subscriber range. Barrios said they have a stronger relationship with their most passionate fans than they have ever had before. He said they believe the video service will ultimately include the entire WWE ecosystem. He said they will believe they can get to 3-4 million subscribers over time and they feel good about the progress. The caller asked about specifics in terms of what will get them there. Barrios said he thinks there are economics to unlock that they don’t even know yet.

-The next caller asked Vince if they are trying to expand the audience or cater to the super fan audience they already have. Vince said there is a huge effort on their part to expand the base and spoke about the importance of female viewership. Vince said you have to grow and they are trying to hit as many demographics as they can. “Generally speaking, it’s a broader audience,” McMahon said.

-The caller asked if they will need to expand the performance center. Barrios said they are going to continue to invest in creating content, specifically local content in priority markets. He said they are going to continue to invest in tech and data.

-The next caller brought up television ratings and how Raw ratings have been dropping while Smackdown numbers are up. He asked what they are currently doing and what they need to do to improve the ratings going forward as they approach their negotiations with NBCU. Barrios said from time to time, one brand may end up doing better than the other. He said they don’t worry about this month or this quarter. He said they are excited about the storylines on Raw and on Smackdown.

-A caller noted that his daughter watches most WWE content through Youtube and getting her to watch on the network is nearly impossible. Wilson said their strategy on social and digital is that they have to be there. She said they know that kids discover brands on social media. She said they don’t look at social media as cannibalizing, they feel they have to be there. The caller asked if Wilson believes social media is a bridge that eventually leads to TV. She said that’s not necessarily the path, but their priority is to bring them into the brand and present them with a path over time. Barrios said it takes time. He said that if they dominate on the three platforms, they will go where the viewers are. Wilson said the television ratings is not the only way to measure their success.

-The caller asked about E-Sports. She said they are absolutely looking at it with their partners.

-The caller asked about the company delivering the message that they are a family friendly brand. Wilson spoke about the blue chip advertisers. She praised Stephanie McMahon for spreading their message to CEOs. She noted that they have been family friendly from 2008. She said they have made tremendous progress and will continue to get the message out that they are a family friendly sports entertainment brand.

-The next caller asked how they intend to keep their network production expenses the same while also doing more localized content. Barrios said he feels they have the right level to keep growing the network. Wilson said they are finding that localization and more in-ring content is what their subscribers are looking for and the company produces that efficiently.

-The caller also brought up Jinder Mahal’s push without mentioning him by name and asked if they are getting bigger numbers in India as a result. Barrios spoke about a number of their talents being popular worldwide and said there is a certain amount of ethnocentrism, and this certainly doesn’t hurt them in India. This concluded the call.

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