By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE executives hosted a conference call pertaining to the WWE fourth quarter and full year 2022 financial report that was released on February 2, 2023 at Corporate.WWE.com. The following are the highlights of the call. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-The call was hosted by WWE CEO Nick Khan, WWE head of creative and talent Paul Levesque, and WWE Chief Financial Officer Frank Riddick. WWE Senior VP of Investor Relations Seth Zaslow read through the legalities and then turned things over to Khan for the opening statement.
-Khan spoke about the record revenue to open the call. He acknowledged that there have been changes. He said Vince McMahon stepped away and spoke about the firm they hired to explore the company’s options. He said that with the television rights expiring, they have a unique opportunity. He said there are a broad number of options and there’s no assurance of any specific transactions.
-Khan said Stephanie McMahon stepped away last month. He called her a great business partner and a friend, and thanked her.
-Khan spoke about the Royal Rumble success, as well as their successful live events. Khan said they expect both nights of WrestleMania to be sold out.
-Khan touted the viewership increases for Raw and Smackdown at a time when all of television is down 18 percent. He spoke about the big numbers for Raw XXX and last week’s Smackdown. Khan said Raw is up 17 percent in the 18-34 demographic when TV viewing is down 28 percent in that demo.
-Khan said all three of their premium live events were up during (college) football season. He said their premium live events are driving subscriptions for Peacock and also said they were up 17 percent internationally.
-Khan touted the success of the Clash at the Castle event. He said 75 percent of those who bought tickets came from outside of Wales and spoke about the affect that it had on the local economy. Khan said they are heading back to London for Money in the Bank on July 1. He also spoke about Elimination Chamber being held in Montreal later this month.
-Khan spoke of the record Royal Rumble merchandise sales from within the stadium. He said they had seven-figure deals for the Mountain Dew Pitch Black match, as well as for the sponsored countdown clock.
-Paul Levesque credited the record numbers for their shows to the roster and the prolific creative team. He spoke of Rhea Ripley winning the women’s Royal Rumble, the returns of Pat McAfee and Logan Paul, and Cody Rhodes winning the men’s Royal Rumble. He also quoted ESPN labeling Sami Zayn’s departure from the Bloodline as one of the most dramatic moments in sports entertainment history. Levesque worked in mentions of Roman Reigns and Bianca Belair.
-Levesque spoke of the company’s growth on TikTok and launching more accounts in various regions. He mentioned The Bump’s 200th episode and said they intend to launch more digital shows. Levesque said Logan Paul filming his own leap from the top rope at WWE Crown Jewel was the most viewed WWE YouTube clip. He said Paul’s Royal Rumble spot with Ricochet also delivered over 26 million views.
-Levesque spoke about the company’s NIL program and the campus rush tour. He said their spring schedule will be unveiled “in the coming weeks.” He spoke about the worldwide search for talent and said they will be unveiling plans for how they intend to share the stories of those who are trying to land WWE contracts.
-Levesque closed by talking about how much fun he’s had in his role as head of creative. He said that having Vince McMahon around “has been great.” He said Vince is “a tremendous asset to this company.” Levesque said he looks forward to building the business alongside the leadership team for the long term.
-Frank Riddick read through the financial presentation. Once he finished, they opened up the lines for caller questions.
-The first caller asked Nick Khan if he could tell shareholders that Vince McMahon was willing to end his involvement as part of a sale to maximize value for shareholders. Khan said yes and added that Vince has already assured shareholders that he would. He said it’s not all about value for the shareholder, not what role Vince will have.
-Khan was also asked about future sponsorship and whether they would consider incorporating the wrestling ring. Khan said yes and said they are looking at doing that with the ring now.
-Khan explained the idea of potentially selling before the television rights deal is because if they made a deal first, it would take some prospective buyers off the table.
-A caller asked about television ratings, and NXT’s deal coming up soon. Khan spoke about Monday Night Football expanding in different ways. When he spoke about NXT, he said the television partner is thrilled with it and they see potential growth for what is essentially their farm system’s show.
-A caller asked about what they are doing in India, and also asked about existing deals being respected by new ownership. Khan said that any television rights agreements they already have would be respected if there’s an ownership change. When it comes to India, Khan said COVID-19 impacted their growth because they couldn’t do local events there. He said they will do a big live event there once they are able to do so.
-The next caller asked about how the media rights world has evolved and the perception that it’s just the incumbents who are interested. Khan said there were other bidders last time and the universe has expanded, so he anticipates there being additional suitors.
-Another NXT television rights question came up. Khan said they are very happy with NBCU and spoke about PLE’s being on Saturday has a lot to do with Sunday Night Football on NBC. He said they get a lot of promotion from Sunday Night Football for Raw and NXT, and it leads to Smackdown on Fox as well. Khan also pointed out that Raw brought 90 percent of its audience to Syfy when it was bumped to that network due to the Winter Olympics last year.
-The final caller asked about TV versus streaming versus digital when it comes to younger viewers. Khan said television is important, though not as important as it one was. He pointed out that a lot of their Peacock views are on mobile devices. They wrapped up the call shortly thereafter.
Powell’s POV: I just hit on what I considered to be the notable questions from the Q&A portion, so there were some additional topics that I left out. I suspect that Khan stating that they are out to make the best deal for the shareholder and it’s not just about Vince McMahon finding a deal that allows him to retain power is going to get a lot of attention. As a publicly traded company, they pretty much had to make that statement, so it’s really not surprising.
I found it interesting that they are finally open to selling advertising in the ring. I’ve asked about this over the years and have been told that Vince McMahon was down on the idea. I remember one person telling me that Vince found in-ring advertising to be “tacky.” Obviously, things have changed and there’s a lot of ad money to be made by doing it, though selfishly I hope that they are selective and the ring doesn’t start to resemble a NASCAR vehicle.
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