Today, WWE confirmed to Wrestling Inc. that the President of the WWE International division, Gerrit Meier, has left the company after more than three years.
Meier's departure from WWE comes at a time that International growth is again a high priority for WWE. In their investor presentation, WWE touts that they expect major growth from international sources through the expansion of the WWE Network and the escalating rights from television contracts. Emerging markets of high importance for WWE include Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Long-term WWE is especially focused on growing their business in India and China.
Already, WWE has made two announcements regarding China in the last three months.
In April, the company announced the appointment of Jay Li as the new WWE Vice President & General Manager for the Greater China. In that announcement, then-President of WWE International Gerrit Meier was quoted as saying "our presence in China is critical to the company's future growth." In June, WWE announced a new multi-year partnership with PPTV to air Raw and SmackDown episodes in Mandarin.
Meier's last major appearance was as part of the 2016 Business Partner Summit which is held annually during WrestleMania weekend. Meier talked about WWE International's goals of "brand engagement, embracing cultural diversity and developing key business partnerships."
His presentation discussed the growth in international social media engagements and expanded touring in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Dubai in 2016). He also talked about a new international sponsorship deals with Hardees and the new direct-to-retail agreement with Walmart in Mexico. Under his leadership, WWE also held their first European Business Partner Summits with events in Germany, France, Italy and the UK. In particular, Meier focused on the opportunities in India (including localization efforts for Zee TV) and their partnership with OSN which distributes the WWE programming and the WWE Network in the Middle East.
It is expected that international responsibility will be reassigned to existing WWE lines of business. The general managers of respective regions would report up through Ed Wells, WWE Executive Vice President of International. Wells has been with the company since he joined the company as part of WWE's Tokyo office in 2008.
WWE International Business
In 2015, WWE set a company record for net revenue with $658.8 million. Over a quarter of net revenue ($169.8 million) was generated outside of North America with the lion's share coming from the United Kingdom ($76.7 million). WWE's net revenue year-over-year increase was than $116 million as compared to 2014.
What was the key to this revenue growth? Television Rights and the WWE Network.
The largest driver of growth was the implementation of new domestic & international television rights contracts which represented an incremental $54.5 million compared to the previous year. Also, the combined revenue from the WWE Network segment (which includes the traditional Pay-per-view revenue that the over-the-top network cannibalized) grew year-over-year by $44.4 million.
International business is a key piece to WWE's success and growth. Slightly less than half (46%) of WWE's annual growth came from outside of United States and Canada.
The two-thirds of WWE's non-North America net revenue growth came from the United Kingdom. In 2015, WWE began a new five-year lucrative BskyB television contract with escalating rights. The estimated annualized value of the UK TV contract is nearly triple the previous deal. In addition, WWE's landed a significant new TV contract in India with Ten Sports. The five-year deal in India is now the 3rd largest Television contract in WWE (behind US and UK).
At the same time, the WWE Network is now available in almost every country on Earth except from China. After the initial global roll-out in August 2014, the WWE added United Kingdom in January 2015, Middle East in February 2015, Malaysia in July 2015, Italy in July 2015, India in November 2015, Germany/Austria/Switzerland in January 2016 and Japan in January 2016. Average paid subscribers to the WWE Network outside of the United States grew from 35,000 at the end of 2014 to 269,000 at the end of 2015.