By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE executives hosted a conference call pertaining to the WWE first quarter financial report that was released on April 22, 2021 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 spoke about coming out of the pandemic. He said they were in survival mode to start and they looked at it as a way to open their treasure chest. He boasted that they have the best management team in WWE history. He said he doesn’t think he’s ever been as excited as he is now.
-Khan spoke about the recent developments in media and said he would have an update on the return to touring. Khan mentioned Amazon taking the NFL’s Thursday night package. He said they have no inside knowledge, but he wouldn’t be surprised if they were negotiating to move up the launch of their exclusivity. He also spoke about the NHL’s new television deal. Khan said that they are confident that WWE is positioned for long term growth.
-Khan spoke of the possibility of striking licensing deals similar to their arrangement with Peacock for WWE Network in other key international markets.
-Khan said that many of the Undertaker NFTs sold out in seconds. He said they would do additional NFTs in the near future.
-WWE Studios was mentioned by Khan. He mentioned that they sold an animated series to Crunchy Roll, which is now owned by Sony. He touted “Young Rock” on NBC, and the A&E biography series and WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures. Khan once again told listeners to stay tuned for an announcement regarding their full-time return to touring.
-Stephanie McMahon spoke about WrestleMania 37. She said there wasn’t a dry eye as they celebrated something bigger than themselves – belonging. She said the slogan of “Then. Now. Forever.” became “Then. Now. Forever. Together.”
-Stephanie said WrestleMania was the most viewed live event in the short history of Peacock. She said media coverage increased 25 percent with 1.2 billion media impressions. Stephanie mentioned Jey Uso winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and the historic Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair match. She also touted the celebrities involved in the two-night event.
-Stephanie touted the success of Bad Bunny’s appearances. She said they were up 31 percent with Hispanic viewers in a key demo for his appearances.
-Salen read through the financial presentation that is available on the corporate website (the caller portion is likely coming up next).
-Salen said they do not anticipate resuming live events until the second half of 2021.
-Weitz opened the line for questions. A caller asked about sponsorship deals. Stephanie said there is tremendous potential and upside. She said the wrestlers are influencers and WWE owns all of the intellectual properties unlike other sports leagues. Khan said they are getting their ducks in a row with Peacock and they are deep in their conversations now that the launch has been successful.
-The caller asked about a potential lift once fans return and if they have any big creative ideas that might be difference makers. Khan joked that they have a four question limit, which drew laughs from Vince and others. Khan said the fans are the fourth wall in that they immediately learn from them what is and what is not working. He said they yearn for the return of fans just as much as the performers do and they expect it to have a positive influence on business in every way.
-The next caller asked about record viewership of WrestleMania on Peacock compared to last year on WWE Network. Khan said their partners at Peacock asked them not to do that. He said that when you wake up to calls and emails after an event, it means they are thrilled and they definitely heard from them throughout the weekend.
-NXT moving to Tuesday nights was brought up and the pros and cons of the switch. The caller asked about AEW reaching record numbers and whether they care. Khan said everything is competition for them (not just other pro wrestling shows). Khan said he doesn’t believe the NHL and NBC are going to remain in business together. He said that relationship had nothing to do with NXT moving to Tuesday nights. He said they are pleased with NXT’s increased numbers and they don’t focus on anyone other than themselves.
-The caller asked Khan about other potential suiters aside from Amazon. Khan mentioned Apple TV, but said they haven’t gone all in yet despite showing interesting in a number of live events. Khan said he believes there will be significant competition amongst the streamers and said that live programming is a premium and that’s what WWE does.
-The next caller asked if WWE could actually sell anything to Apple or another outlet given their current licensing deals. Khan said their Raw and Smackdown deals expire in 2025, but they have the ability to sell new content.
-Another caller asked if they would continue to hold a residency for television once they start touring to ease in. Salen said they haven’t finalized any plans yet. She said their financial guidance pertains to full touring.
-Khan spoke about college football rights and said there’s only so much money to go around in general. He said that the SEC is in great shape. He said there will be some challenges for the Big 10 package because they didn’t perform this season. He predicted a consolidation with some of the other conferences. He said the folks who have delivered eyeballs will benefit, while those trying to prove that they can will find it challenging.
-Khan said they are bullish about the live event business and selling merchandise directly in addition to eCommerce.
-The next caller asked about NFTs and what they are trying to do to maximize it. First, he boasted that they are still undefeated against the weather while running outdoor WrestleMania events despite a “ten-minute” delay. He once again touted that WWE owns most of the intellectual property when it comes to its characters and spoke highly about doing more with NFTs.
-Khan spoke about the success of the Indian television special. He said they did that show in Florida due to COVID.
-Salen said they would not be changing their Peacock guidance for future quarters. She also said their NXT television rights deal fell within their guidance, so they did not need to update that either. Weitz wrapped up the call moments later.
Powell’s POV: Khan continues to shine. While only time will tell whether his predictions are correct, he comes off as highly plugged into the media rights landscape. The financial calls were often dry and filled with a lot of “no comment at this time” style responses before his arrival, whereas he’s made these calls far more informative even regarding non-WWE business.