WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, Co-President George Barrios, Co-President Michelle Wilson and SVP Financial Planning & Investor Relations Michael Weitz are hosting a Third Quarter 2018 earnings call today from WWE headquarters in Stamford. You can check out coverage of this morning’s press release at this link. Below are highlights from the call:
Weitz gave the usual introduction and turned the call over to Vince. Vince said they continue to effectively executive their strategy and deliver results that exceed guidance. WWE continues to focus on deepening engagement of their audience and increasing production of original content. Vince touted Miz & Mrs. on USA Network and said it was a big success, The Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network and Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook Watch. He said they are pretty much able to fit in any place and do this in any capacity. He also touted SmackDown 1000 and how RAW had been on a bit longer. He touted 70,000 fans at WWE Super Show-Down in Australia and said it was the highest-attended event outside of the United States in the past 25 years. Vince said they are looking forward to Evolution and Crown Jewel. He said they are, generally speaking, pleased with their performance and are on track to achieve record revenue, record OIBDA and record subscribers to the WWE Network. He did not mention Saudi Arabia by name.
Wilson and Barrios then went over some of the numbers from today’s press release. SummerSlam and The Mae Young Classic were some of the most-viewed content in the quarter. They produced 400 hours of content in the quarter. Wilson touted MYC and said based on the success of WWE NXT, they have launched NXT UK. She also touted the success of Super Show-Down and how Evolution is sold out. Digital video views for the quarter were up 61% to 29.9 billion views. Fans watched more than 840 million hours of content. They created 170 hours of digital & social content, which includes MMC. Barrios touted how they continue to launch new products and touted the new Custom Tees website. He also touted their mobile game division and how they have more than 95 million installs across many platforms. He touted WWE SuperCard and how the WWE Champions mobile game saw more success with the introduction of the women’s division. Barrios noted how they are still working on creating localized content for international markets and also touted some of the upcoming international tryouts. Barrios said it was a difficult decision to continue with the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia and he pointed to the statement on continuing with the event in this morning’s press release. WWE’s key strategies goals remain unchanged as they focus on their distribution deals, creating new content, investing in data & infrastructure, focusing on international growth. It’s time for the Q&A portion with investors now.
The first caller asked Vince about Saudi Arabia being a key market now and his thought process in keeping Crown Jewel there. Vince said they’re not going to talk a lot about that today. He said it’s naturally a very sensitive subject these days, and their statement in this morning’s press release says all they want to say about that today. Vince answered the next question about live event business. They know what’s wrong with the live event product as it’s kind of “antiquated” and they know how to fix it. They will be “re-imagining” the live event product soon and we should see a turnaround shortly.
They were was asked about international growth with the NXT brand and Barrios noted that they hope to have Performance Centers around the world one day. Regarding Mixed Match Challenge and the relationship with Facebook, Wilson said it’s been a very positive relationship and as Facebook grows the Watch platform, WWE works with them and learns, helps grow. Wilson touted new partnerships with Hyundai, Riot Games and Coca-Cola. It sounds like they could be planning on launching the first international Performance Center in 2019. They were asked about WWE Network tiered pricing and if we’re getting close to that. Barrios joked that we’re always getting a little closer to the tiers. He said when they do things that affect the consumer they want to do it right. They’re “re-imagining” live events, RAW and SmackDown, and the WWE Network. Barrios estimated that the tiered pricing could possibly come in 2019 but he said they are getting close to it and they are excited about it.
They hope NXT UK will build engagement in the UK market. Wilson said WWE is in 190 markets and viewership is strong in every one. When asked about more in-ring content for the Network, Wilson said a lot of their in-ring content drives the Network success as NXT is one of the best viewed series outside of pay-per-view events. Feedback shows that subscribers want more in-ring content and they are working on that. They have had discussions on a possible all-women’s show for the Network. One investor asked about potential outside risks WWE can’t control when doing business with Saudi Arabia, such as government sanctions. Barrios turned the question down, citing the complexity of the situation and said everything they will say on the topic was in the statement from this morning.
That’s it for the Q&A. Weitz thanked everyone and wrapped the call.