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 second quarter financial report that was released on July 25, 2018. 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 said their revenues being $269 million “it is what it is.” He said they completed overseas television deals, including Latin America and with PP Sports in China. He said they are close to announcing an Indian television deal soon.
-Vince noted the hiring of executive directors for Raw and Smackdown (Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff). He spoke about long term and short term benefits. Vince also touted the Fox debut for October and said it will put them in 33 percent more homes and praised Fox for being great promoters. Vince also said the relationship with NBCU is super as well. Vince said they are excited about the future.
Powell’s POV: I’m surprised Vince didn’t mention Heyman and Bischoff by name.
-George Barrios read through the financial presentation and touted the WWE Network overhaul. He also brought up the talent injuries that affected the first quarter and pointed out that they went from being down 14 percent in television ratings year over year in quarter one to being down 11 percent in quarter two.
-Barrios said they no longer expect to reach a record WWE Network subscriber count in 2019. He shifted to focusing on the upgraded WWE Network platform. He said it allows them to add a free tier and a premium tier, plus more localization of the content.
-Wilson delivered more of the earnings presentation. She mentioned the new Fox studio show and the A&E biographies that are being produced on WWE legends. She said they will return to China for the fourth straight year in September.
-Barrios spoke about the possibility of a Saudi Arabia media rights agreement and said it could be worth between $10 million and $20 million.
-The lines were opened for calls.
-The first caller asked about the terms of the deal in Saudi Arabia. Barrios said they did a show in Saudi Arabia on June 7 as part of their ten-year agreement. He said they assume they will do a second event in the event and they believe they will do a media rights agreement in the region.
-A caller asked about television ratings, the pay television market, and demand for WWE content in India. Barrios said he didn’t want to get into something where discussions are ongoing. He said they believe the entertainment sector will grow significantly in India over the next ten years. The caller followed up by asking for data about consumption. Barrios declined to talk about “internal data.”
-A caller asked a couple of questions about 2020 projections, but Barrios shot them both down by saying they’re not ready to give 2020 guidance.
-The next caller asked about the hiring of Heyman and Bischoff as executive directors, why now, and how much latitude they will be given. Vince said he can’t be in the weeds any longer. He said they both have a lot of experience in the business. He claimed they will have a lot of latitude, which led to what sounded like someone laughing in the background. Vince still didn’t mention Heyman or Bischoff by name.
-A caller asked about the WWE Network relaunch and how long it before we see tiered pricing and localization. Barrios said it will be the free tier first, pay tier second, and localization third. He said this will all happen within the next 12 months or so depending on how the rollout goes, then said he hopes to see it happen this year.
-The caller asked about their television deals and why they went with BT Sports in the UK. Barrios said they ultimately make their choices based on evaluating the market and potential partners, among other factors. He said they feel really good where they ended up. He said he didn’t want to touch on clauses in contracts, but they are excited, though he wouldn’t get into specifics because some of the details are confidential.
-A caller brought up the Variety piece and asked about the state of the storylines. Vince said they have “definitely turned the corner.” Vince once again mentioned having executive directors. He said they will spend more time on storylines and talent development, and labeled it a relaunch of their content. Still no mention by Vince of Heyman or Bischoff by name.
-The next caller asked about buy back and something that prevented them from doing it. Barrios said he didn’t want to get into specifics.
-Another caller asked about the possibility of the content getting edgier and how that might be an issue with their partners. Vince said they will get a bit edgier, yet remain in the PG environment. “We’re not going to go back to the old Attitude Era or do blood and guts.” Vince mentioned something about how their “new competitor” may take that approach.
-The caller brought up the rumblings of the NXT television show possibly moving to television. Barrios said that for every piece of content they need to evaluate the best platform. He ran through the various ways to put a show out there and said the question applies to everything, then said they wouldn’t talk about NXT specifically. Weak.
-A caller asked about how much promotion Fox will provide. Wilson spoke about how excited they are to be partnering with Fox. She said they are already promoting Smackdown during NASCAR coverage and that “will be dialed up significantly” in September. She said Smackdown will be promoted on all of their sports programming and will be included in promotion of their entertainment programming as well. She mentioned that Fox wants to include WWE in some of their programming and mentioned “The Masked Singer” as one example. Vince said they’ve been led to believe that NBCU will up their promotional efforts. He said he doesn’t know if they can equal what Fox is going to do, but they want to do more for Raw.
-The first caller returned and noted that the ratings improved in the quarter compared to the first quarter, but she noted that live events were down. She labeled Vince the best businessman she covers and asked when they stop trying to improve the ratings because they can’t go up due to competition in television. Vince took this as a chance to fire another shot at AEW. He said competition is good for everyone, then he spoke about the blood, guts, and gory thing, and said he can’t imagine TNT will put up with it. Barrios chimed in and said there will be continued competition and more and more content, but if you can cut through the clutter, then there’s an economic opportunity.
-Weitz wrapped up the call.
Powell’s POV: Vince spent more time expressing outrage over AEW’s “blood and guts” approach than he did talking about what he believes Heyman and Bischoff will specifically bring to the table. He never mentioned AEW, Heyman, or Bischoff by name. You’d think Vince stating that he “can’t be in the weeds” would be alarming to some who still think he’s the genius creative power in the company, and thus he would spend more time touting the new executive directors, but it just didn’t happen. There were a couple of decent questions about WWE’s creative woes. I was hoping that someone would have asked why Paul Levesque wasn’t named an executive director, but his name never came up during the call. Wall Street has responded well to the quarterly report. As of 10:50 a.m. CT, the stock price is up $4.86 since the market opened today. Jake Barnett and I will have much more to say about this call, WWE financials, AEW on TNT, and more on today’s Dot Net Weekly and Pro Wrestling Boom combo show.