WWE Co-President George Barrios discussed AEW during today's WWE 2019 Q3 earnings call with investors. You can read our full recap from the call by clicking here. As noted, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon missed today's call because he was in Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel.
One investor asked Barrios and Co-President Michelle Wilson how they view the emergence of AEW and any potential impact they are seeing from the competition, whether it's TV ratings or talent costs, and if they're worried about talents leaving.
Barrios responded and admitted that all live content is competition, whether it's the NFL or AEW.
"The live content ecosystem is competitive," Barrios said (H/T to Seeking Alpha). "So whether you're talking about the NFL, which kind of stands alone on that next tier of us, the NBA, [Major League] Baseball, NASCAR, and then you start kind of moving down and you get to the third or fourth tier. So everybody is a competitor to some degree. Ultimately, what we try to do is drive as much engagement as we can on Monday and Friday nights, and we feel pretty good on our history in doing that. And then our ability to continue doing that in the future.
"So they're a competitor, like there's a lot of competition for eyeballs, and we take them seriously. And our expectation is that we win."
The same investor asked if talent costs are higher due to AEW. He specifically mentioned AEW World Champion Chris Jericho making a "pretty big statement" with the new pro wrestling company, and asked again if WWE worries about losing other wrestlers to AEW. Barrios said talent is a part of their three main elements of cost, and they're all higher, but he wouldn't say for sure what is driving those costs up, if AEW is or not. Barrios also touted the size of WWE and everything they have to offer talents, and said he would imagine that those are important to a talent when they're deciding on who to go with.
"And so just to clarify, what I said was that producing our core in-ring content, has three elements of cost," Barrios said. "It's the creative side, we talked a little bit about the new model we put in place there. It's the talent, which is attracting, developing and retaining the talent, and third one is the actual production element. And we said that in all three cases, on a year-over-year basis, they're higher – the costs are higher. So it's us making investments into what we think is the most important thing that we do. Don't want to really get into kind of external perspective on that and what may influence it. The only other thing I would say is that historically, as the company [WWE] has done better, our talent has done better. And we think that's part of the win-win kind of virtuous cycle, and we think that's a good model, and it's one that we can – we've always expected to continue employing.
"As far as individual talent making choices, everyone's got a decision to make. I will say, we have a sizable wrestling platform by an order of magnitude, maybe two orders magnitude of anyone in the world. The amount of consumption we do in the United States, across the world on traditional pay TV, the 35 billion video views that we do, the over 1 billion social media accounts that we have, being the large – second largest SVOD sports service in the world. So I would imagine, I'm not a talent myself. But I would imagine, as people are thinking about who to align with, that all those things are really, really important. We certainly think so."