By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE executives George Barrios and Michelle Wilson hosted a conference call on June 27, 2018 to discuss the new Raw and Smackdown television deals. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-WWE Investor Relations executive Michael Weitz opened the call. He turned things over to WWE Co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson.
-Barrios touted the five-year deals with Raw remaining on USA Network, and Smackdown moving to Fox. The new deals go into effect on October 1, 2019. He said the Raw deal increases the average annual value 3.6 times over their previous deal with NBCU. He noted that they expect to reach agreements on their UK deal in 2018, and in India during the first half of 2019.
-The opened up the phone lines for calls.
-A caller asked about digital rights for Raw and Smackdown. Barrios indicated that there are no changes and there’s not a chance to do more in that regard with Raw or Smackdown within the United States.
-The next caller asked about the one-hour WWE show that was mentioned for FS1. Wilson said there have been discussions with Fox regarding additional programming that would help with marketing. She didn’t offer any specifics.
-The caller also asked whether an ownership change with Sky Sports in the UK changes things. Barrios does not believe so.
-The caller asked if they have tried to drum up potential buyers for the television deal in the UK. Barrios said he and Wilson have a lot of frequent flyer miles. He didn’t offer any specifics aside from saying they have been trying to spread the word about what the company is and what they do.
-A caller asked about the possibility of splitting up Raw and Smackdown in other countries just as they have done with the U.S. television deals. Barrios indicated that it’s all based on each market in question.
-The next caller asked what changed to cause the television deals to increase. He also noted that the value is still below the value of sports programming based on some metrics. Barrios spoke about ESPN covering WWE along with people viewing WWE as being more than a live event business. He also spoke about live branded content being at a premium in the U.S. When it came to the second question, he said they want to be valuable to their partners and agreed that it’s still a bargain in a lot of ways.
-The next caller spoke about their additional content and asked if they want to develop content differently going forward as a result of what has happened with the Raw and Smackdown rights. Wilson said they have the unique ability to create new content and tell new stories. She mentioned looking at reality and documentaries. “We think the possibilities are numerous in terms of other genres,” Wilson said. She added that they will look at various platforms and not just television with so many outlets looking for content. She said it’s not just economics, it’s also a brand building opportunity. Barrios chimed in about doing more localized content. Wilson said they are looking at more scripted content such as comedies and dramas.
-The caller asked if Fox is contractually obligated to cross promote the company or if it’s just something they promised. Wilson said there are absolutely requirements regarding cross promotion. Wilson said NBC has already been a great partner with cross promotion and their discussions with Fox on the matter have been great.
-There were no further questions, so Weitz closed the call.
Powell’s POV: It’s no surprise that WWE can’t do more digitally with Raw and Smackdown given the amount of money that NBCU and Fox are paying for the television rights. It was interesting to hear Wilson speak about their interest in creating additional content and mentioning the idea of more reality shows, documentaries, and even scripted content such as comedies and dramas. They are making huge money from the U.S. television deals, but it’s clear that they will continue to seek out ways to create additional revenue. I was hoping that someone would bring up the brand split and whether they anticipate that remaining in place once the new deals kick in. No such luck this time around.
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