By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Vince McMahon served as the host of a conference call pertaining to WWE’s 2020 third quarter financial report that was released on October 29, 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, Stephanie McMahon, and WWE Chief Financial Officer Kristina Salen, and WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan. WWE Senior VP of Investor Relations Michael Weitz read through the legalities and then turned it over to Vince.
-Vince was tough to understand, but he praised the new management team.
-Khan spoke about his background. Khan touted Total Bellas, as well as the WWE: Quest For Lost Treasures show that will air on A&E. He also spoke about the WWE documentary series that will air on A&E.
-Khan announced that WWE has sold a multi-episode documentary on the life of Vince McMahon that will be produced by Bill Simmons of ESPN. WWE Studios will co-produce the series.
-Khan noted that conversations have resumed regarding “alternative options” to their current WWE Network model. He said they could not say when such a deal will be completed.
-Khan noted that the average paid subscribers to WWE Network increased by six percent compared to the same quarter last year.
-Khan said they are working with Sony in India on an event that will primarily feature their Indian developmental talent that will be available on Sony in India and also the United States.
-Stephanie McMahon spoke about her role as the Chief Brand Officer. She boasted about the way WWE pivoted during the pandemic. She said their early efforts were not good enough, but they “found a way to bring the spectacle back” to WWE in the form of the ThunderDome. She said the new approach made Raw and Smackdown feel alive again. Stephanie also spoke about the Capitol Wrestling Center for NXT, and the television studio used in London for NXT UK.
-Stephanie said they have a pop culture initiative to bring celebrities and influencers into their programming. She mentioned Matthew McConaughey’s appearance via ThunderDome on Monday’s Raw.
-Salen said hello to the WWE shareholders, then read through the earnings presentation.
-Weitz opened up the phone lines for calls. The first caller brought up the television ratings and asked for a concrete plan to improve ratings. The caller asked if the ratings held steady long term, would it impact the value of the television right values. Vince was tough to understand, but I believe he said the ratings are down, yet the total audience is much bigger. “We are doing what we can,” Vince said regarding improving the ratings. He mentioned ThunderDome. Khan chimed in and spoke about the consumption of content being up significantly. He said they are confident that their value will go up. He also spoke of their success in running opposite the NHL Stanley Cup Final and NBA Finals.
-The caller asked about the MENA television negotiations. Vince said they are in contact and they are continuing to negotiate. He offered no timeline.
-A caller asked about WWE Network. Khan said everyone is looking for subs that will travel and they believe they have those. He said they are in constant dialogue with companies about potentially licensing to them.
-The next caller asked about advertising on WWE Network and some of the viewership consumption numbers. Khan spoke of how the free tier has led to increased subscribers. Stephanie said they are testing technology.
-The caller asked if they planned to preserve the data they get from WWE Network if they strike a deal to license the content. Khan said yes and emphasized its importance.
-A caller asked for perspective from Khan on what is happening with television ratings for WWE and sports in general and whether it makes them consider who they will partner with in the future and how it affects their content going forward. Khan spoke about content first and having it placed where viewers can most easily access it. Khan brought up Disney having great intellectual property, great films, and sports rights, and assumed they must be thinking that they could be like Netflix. He assumed NBCU is thinking the same thing. He said they want to keep their current partners happy with the product while looking ahead three to five years from now. He said they will be prepared if its television or a streaming world.
-The caller asked what it will take to grow international rights and fan interest in their programming. Khan wondered if Netflix will be testing live programming, and noted the possibility of them testing it internationally to work through the hiccups. He said everything is going there and if the streamers are not running live now they will be eventually.
-The next caller asked about content production. In answering part of the question, Salen noted that nearly all of the company’s furloughed employees will be back by the end of the year. Khan said they have a treasure trove of intellectual property. The caller asked if the ratings improvement they mentioned earlier had carried over to October. Khan said their ratings have held consistent across the board in October.
-A caller asked about Saudi events in 2021. Salen said they are working on the 2021 operational plan with the executive team.
-The caller asked about backup plans for the Amway Center’s deal expiring. Salen said they will be in Amway Center or a similar venue into 2021. She indicated that they are not concerned about finding a new home given the pandemic.
-NXT’s television ratings were mentioned by the next caller and future television distribution. Khan congratulated Paul Levesque and the NXT team on the “particularly strong” ratings. He declined to get into specifics regarding the length of their deal. The caller asked about content that works in NXT that maybe isn’t working on Raw or Smackdown. Khan recalled Vince saying they want the best writing and talent. Doing that 52 weeks per year is a challenge, but it’s a challenge they’ve always lived up to.
-The next caller asked about Vince taking part in the conference call with Donald Trump and the other heads of sports leagues. The caller wondered what WWE is hoping to see before the “go for it” and return to running live events. Vince was tough to understand, but he put over the conference call and also said they will run when it’s safe for the performers and fans.
Powell’s POV: What are they waiting to see before they “go for it” and run live events during a pandemic? Really, dude? Anyway, Vince McMahon is tougher to understand with each conference call. I don’t have great hearing by any means and perhaps some of it was whatever system he was using, but he was the only person that I struggled to understand. Khan was a welcome addition to the call team and offered some interesting insight regarding the future of streaming.