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 Second Quarter 2019 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 opened the call and welcomed everyone. He went over the basics of the press release and the call, then turned things over to Vince. Vince touted revenue being at $269 million and said it is what it is, chuckling. He said they have completed international TV deals, which they are excited about, and excited about localized content. Vince said it adds to the ways WWE can reach their audience. They are close to announcing other international TV deals, including in India.
They have hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as RAW and SmackDown Executive Directors (he did not name them). Vince said these hires will allow him to look at a longer range on storyline arc developments, focus more on talent development and not “get in the weeds” like he has in the past, which is good for the long term and the short-term, which he says we’ve seen evidence of already. He said they are excited about moving SmackDown to Fox, and touted how the show will reach more homes than it does on the USA Network now. Vince said it’s a family-type of relationship with Fox, as it is with NBCUniversal. They are excited about the future in terms of it being like another kickoff for the company. Vince handed the call over to Barrios.
Barrios went over the basics and the numbers of the press release. He said some of the improvements in the numbers are credited to returning talents and the improvement of storylines coming out of WrestleMania 35. They remain very excited and focused on SmackDown moving to Fox.
He touted how the new version of the WWE Network started to roll out on Wednesday. This new platform enables the introduction of new features and experiences over time, including a free tier and other tiers. They remain very excited about the longterm opportunity of the Network.
Wilson took over the call and talked about focusing on their content distribution plans with international partners. She touted renewal deals for some of their shows, including for Total Bellas, and exclusive WWE Network specials on The Shield and Ronda Rousey. She said they are developing a new “Fight Like a Girl” mobile series for Quibi, and the “Main Event” movie for Netflix. She touted the FS1 WWE studio show to premiere in the fall, and the A&E “Biography” documentaries that are in the works. She touted more than 82,000 fans attending WrestleMania 35 and touted the Super ShowDown event in Saudi Arabia.
Wilson also touted last week’s tryouts in China, and the upcoming live event in China this September. She said they continue to launch their mobile game portfolio, touting the WWE Universe game. They have 115 million mobile video game installs across the entire portfolio. Mattel has helped them secure premium toy placement in Walmart stores. Barrios talked more about some of the business numbers from the press release, which is linked above. They are finalizing TV deals for India and the Middle East, and plan to close them later this year. Barrios wrapped this part of the call and turned it over to Weitz, who opened the lines for the investor Q&A.
Vince was asked about the Bischoff and Heyman hires. He said again that it allows him to not be “in the weeds” any longer. He, again did not name them, but said “these two people” have a lot of long range and developmental range in the business, with extensive backgrounds. He touted their organizational aspects, their depth in working with talents and writing for talents. Vince said the hires will be really good for the business. Regarding how much “latitude” they will have, Vince said they will have a lot because the hires will allow him to have a broader overview of everything, and allow him an escape from getting “in the weeds” again.
They were asked about comments on the state of the product in the media, and how they feel they’ve turned the corner. Barrios was asked about the state of the storylines and what we see on TV, compared to other recent quarters. Vince spoke up and said they have definitely turned the corner. He once again mentioned the new Executive Directors for RAW and SmackDown. Vince said they are spending more time on storylines, good ones, and also talent development. Vince said it’s a combination of a lot of things, all good things so far, coming together. He called it a “re-launch” in terms of content.
Regarding the content expanding, Vince said they will get a bit edgier but they will remain in the PG environment. He said something they will do more controversy with better storylines, but at the same time they are not going to go back to the Attitude Era, they’re not going to do blood and guts and things of that nature, such as what is being done “on our new potential competitor” – a reference to AEW. Vince said they are just not going back to “that gory crap that we graduated from.” Vince said it’s a more sophisticated product, attracting much better writers and better management, things of that nature. Vince feels really good about the content expansion.
Barrios would not directly comment on the WWE NXT to Fox TV rumors, but he said a constant internal discussion they have, the biggest, is creating content and where the best place is for that content. Wilson talked about how Fox is really planning on promoting SmackDown and integrating them into everything else they have going on. Vince added that the have been led to believe that NBCU will also be upping their promotion for RAW, but he doesn’t know if it will be equal to Fox. Vince said NBCU is now in a more competitive situation as well, and they want to do better with promoting RAW.
Vince talked more about competition and said generally competition is good for everyone, he thinks. Vince said they are hoping to the extent that they, presumably AEW and others, remain competition and don’t continue the “blood and guts and gory things they have been doing,” which he says is bad. Vince said he can’t speak for TNT, but he can’t imagine they would put up with that kind of content continuing.
That was it for the call.