By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Vince McMahon and members of senior management served as the hosts of a conference call pertaining to the 2019 first quarter financial report that was released on April 25, 2019. The following are the highlights of the call. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-The call was hosted by WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon, Co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, and and WWE Investor Relations Michael Weitz. Weitz read through the legalities and turned the call over to Vince.
-Vince McMahon started by talking about how the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania were great. He said they are doing some documentaries with A&E network, a studio show coming up on FS1, and a reality show that is doing well. He said that when you look at the corner, they had an unusual situation with top and mid-card talent being out. He said there were 15 talents out with injuries. He said when you don’t have talent, you don’t have storylines, etc. He said that while top talent was out, they made new talent. Vince said they have hired new people on their writing team who will help with ratings. He said live events will continue an upward trend. Vince said that a new beginning is coming due to the promotional push they will be receiving as a result of their new television deals.
-Barrios took over and said they are looking forward to the October 4 launch of Smackdown on Fox. Barrios read through the financial presentation. Barrios mentioned the launch of the new WWE Network platform “later this year.”
-Wilson discussed the A&E documentaries that will focus on five WWE legends. Wilson and Barrios read through more of the presentation. Barrios said they expect to finalize their Raw and Smackdown deals in international markets later this year.
-Weitz opened the phone lines for questions. The first caller asked how they can be confident about a rebound in engagement when some talents are returning, but they have other talents leaving. Barrios said they have a 35-year history of creating talent and they’ve done an incredible job of transitioning from one generation to the next. Vince brought up Ronda Rousey and said she did an extraordinary job. He spoke about how the entire women’s division was elevated and noted that the women headlined WrestleMania. “Ronda did an awesome job,” McMahon said. “She did an awesome job.”
-The next caller asked about WWE Network churn. He also asked about the network relaunch driving subscriber growth. Barrios went back to the talent being sidelined again. Barrios also noted that they had over two million people on the network on WrestleMania Sunday (including users on a free trial). Barrios said the new format will include different language options, though he noted that not everything will be ready on day one. The caller asked if there’s a date for the relaunch. Barrios said they wouldn’t go public with a date and simply said it will happen later this year.
-A caller asked about the television revenue from the new television deals and how it will affect things in 2020. Barrios declined to give long term guidance.
-The next caller asked about about viewership expectations for Raw and Smackdown with the promotional push they will receive. Barrios noted that they will be in 120 million homes on Fox compared to 90 million with USA. He said he believes will over deliver in promotion and that may lead to a rising tide with USA Network as well.
-A caller asked about NXT UK, the WWE Performance Center in the UK, and how the brand has grown. Vince turned things over to Paul Levsesque, who said it has been one of the most successful brands on the network. He spoke about touring and future Takeover event possibilities. He noted that the show is watched worldwide.
-The next caller asked about the possibility of a third hour of Smackdown. Barrios spoke generally about monetizing the content and said there was nothing to update now.
-A caller asked about Fox positioning Smackdown differently for advertisers and whether they will take a different approach than USA Network. The caller also asked about a show in Saudi Arabia in the second quarter. Barrios said they were staying away from guidance on which quarter the event will fall in. Wilson said they are excited to share the stage at the Fox Upfront event. Wilson said she believes Fox will bring them to a new advertising base. She stressed that they will be promoted in all Fox programming, including NFL football on Thursdays, MLB baseball, and during NASCAR events. She said they will have roles in the USA Network and Fox Upfront events.
-The next caller also mentioned Saudi shows. Barrios once again said they won’t talk about the timing of the events.
-Vince was asked about talent development. She mentioned the idea of talent aging. She asked what metrics he looks at when it comes to bringing in new talent to help improve things and how long it takes to build a John Cena or Roman Reigns. Vince turned things over to Levesque again. Levesque said there’s no timing on how long it takes talent. He said they don’t bring in superstars, they create superstars. He said that when talents are injured, new talents step in. Levesque pointed to Kofi Kingston stepping in and becoming WWE Champion. He noted that they have already brought up ten talents through developmental in 2019. He said 80 percent of the main roster have come through the talent development system. “It works very well, it’s very successful.”
-The next caller actually praised WWE for being open about talent injury issues affecting live events. Another caller asked how long it takes for the fan engagement to return when a talent returns from injury. Barrios said it’s not that there were talent absences. He said that happens. He said it’s really the magnitude of it happening at the same time. Barrios said the only time he recalls it happening at this level was in the summer of 2010. He said they were a very different business then. Barrios said it was a six to nine month process at that time, but he said he couldn’t say how it would work this time.
-The next caller asked for clarification about domestic vs. international events in the second quarter. Barrios wouldn’t go into detail, but he noted that they run their European tour in the second quarter.
-With no additional questions, Weitz wrapped up the call.
Powell’s POV: Jake Barnett and I will be discussing the notables of the financial report and the comments made by the WWE executives in this conference call later today in the new Dot Net Weekly audio show. Join us via PWMembership.net.
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