By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Vince McMahon served as the host of a conference call pertaining to the 2020 fourth quarter and year end financial report that was released on February 6, 2020 at Corporate.WWE.com. The following are the highlights of the call. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-The call was hosted by Vince McMahon, interim Chief Financial Officer Frank Riddick, and and WWE Investor Relations Michael Weitz. Weitz read through the legalities and then turned it over to Vince.
-Vince noted that departures of George Barrios and Michelle Wilson while delivering his opening statement. Vince praised them for their contributions and said the company won’t miss a beat.
-Vince said they are changing the culture in WWE to be more inclusive and collaborative.
-Riddick read through the financial report, then Weitz opened up the lines for calls (here we go).
-The first caller asked about their guidance of zero revenue for television rights for India and the Middle East. Riddick said they have an existing deal in India and it was noted that they remain on the air in the country in the first quarter.
-The caller asked about partnering with another streaming service. Vince said they have a lot of options. He said there’s no better time than to exercise the options of selling their rights. He said the players are clamoring for their rights and that could lead to significant revenue.
-The next caller asked if they would be willing to move their pay-per-view events off the network in a third party deal. Riddick said there’s nothing stopping them from doing a different type of arrangement with the network if they choose to.
-The caller asked about the possibility of merging with the XFL. Vince said it’s completely separate and the XFL has roughly 400 employees. He plugged that the first games will be on Saturday.
-The next caller asked about taking cash from linear television for the network rather than OTT. Vince said he was actually referring to OTT. He once again said there is “very strong interest” in their content.
-The caller asked about adding more advertising to WWE Network, which they’ve spoken about in the past. Vince said it is an option if they continue with the network as it is.
-The caller asked what’s taking so long for the television rights deals in India and the Middle East. Riddick said there have been regulatory changes in India that have become the primary reason for the delay. With the Middle East, he spoke about dealing with the Saudi Arabian government. Riddick stressed that it’s a matter of timing and not a case of the deals disappearing.
-Vince popped up and added that if they sell their network content to one of the major players, it would be announced in the first quarter. “That’s how far along we are,” Vince said.
-Vince asked about Paul Heyman and Bruce Prichard, and whether the company needs to spend more money on talent. Vince spoke about storylines, and spending money on production and talent being paramount. He said there was a time when they had a lot of injured talent, but that’s not the case right now. He said it takes a while to put people in place. He said he thinks they have exactly what they want going into WrestleMania.
-Vince was asked if WWE Network is a must have. Vince said nothing is must have and said that a potential deal would be “transformative.”
-A caller brought up the idea of monetizing the network or even shutting it down. He asked if the revenue and expense are expecting to improve. Vince once again said that if they achieve what they are trying to do, it would be “transformative.” The caller followed up by asking about the profitability of the network and whether it was in the $40 and $50 million range. Riddick said they don’t provide that type of information.
-A caller recalled WWE doing beta testing on a free tier of WWE Network. Riddick said the tier was launched in December and it’s too soon to say what affect that has had. Vince stressed that it was a soft launch.
-A caller said a lot of investors are interested in WWE stock, but there is concerned with X factors. He mentioned the XFL and whether there’s anything in the Fox and Comcast agreements that would be surprises such as the deals changing based on viewership. “The contracts are what they are,” Vince said. He said they could do more programming with them and others. Vince once again stressed that the XFL is run separately. He said there is no investment “or hardly anything.” Riddick also stressed that the XFL is a separate entity.
-A caller asked about AEW and assumed they are trying to fill a niche with edgier content. He asked how it’s changed their content and business. Vince said it hasn’t changed their product. He said NXT is competing with AEW on Wednesday nights “and is doing extremely well” and he expects that to continue.
-The caller asked about talent cost and whether the rate has gone up or if it’s because of revenue increasing. Vince said they have always done revenue percentages for the most part. He said the pay has gone up and they are proud of it.
-Vince was asked about his workload due to the management changes. Vince said he has broad shoulders and can handle a lot.
-The international live event numbers deceasing was brought up. Riddick said it’s about what country, what venue, and the number of events. He said there was nothing fundamentally different between the U.S. and international at this point.
-Vince was asked about transitioning leadership. He once again spoke about being “far more inclusive” and attracting world class people. “Who wouldn’t want to work for WWE?” Vince asked “I mean, come on, it’s exciting.” Vince said it won’t take them long to implement everything.
-Vince was asked for specifics about disagreements with George Barrios and Michelle Wilson. Vince said a lot of it was execution related and said it was focus as well, and the allocation of resources. Vince said the way they do business will be different and more successful.
-A caller brought up investments and the XFL, and Vince once again stressed that it’s a “totally separate entity.”
-A caller asked if any WWE Network profits were excluded from the guidance. Riddick said they didn’t assume that any of the strategic options will be implemented, so they didn’t change the guidance. The caller asked if they are assuming it’s a contributor. Riddick said that was correct.
-The question of who will replace Barrios and Wilson was brought up. Vince said they expect exceptional talent to come in and in the meantime they have huge faith in the current management team. With no additional calls, Weitz wrapped up the conference call.
Powell’s POV: The calls are made by people who work in the financial world, and they were actually easier on Vince than I anticipated. They were very focused on the Indian and Middle East television deals, and the news of WWE Network content being sold off and changing the network landscape was big news that also served as something of a distraction from a lot of the negatives. Jake Barnett and I will be discussing the call and what this means for the future of the WWE Network on the Dot Net Weekly audio show later today. If you are not a member, join us via PWMembership.net.