WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon, Chief Revenue Officer & President Nick Khan, Chief Branding Officer Stephanie McMahon, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer Frank A. Riddick, and Senior Vice President & Head of Investor Relations Seth Zaslow hosted a First Quarter 2022 Earnings call today from WWE headquarters in Stamford, CT. You can check out coverage of today’s press release at this link. Below are highlights from the call:
Zaslow welcomed everyone and went over the basics, introducing the other executives on the call. Vince thanked everyone for joining the call, and touted how they had a record performance in 2021, and how it seems that the momentum is carrying over very well into 2022. Vince touted the strong start to the year with record financial results, which reflects strong performance across all lines of their business. Vince mentioned a few notable achievements – the stupendous WrestleMania 38 event, in addition to other successful Premium Live Events like Elimination Chamber, Royal Rumble and Day 1; they announced an expanded partnership with A&E for original programming; and they announced a modest TV rights deal for the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region. Vince said they are pleased with how business is going, and they believe their creativity will continue to drive growth and give back to shareholders.
Khan took over and touted how WrestleMania 38 was the most-viewed ‘Mania in history, domestically and internationally. Khan touted WrestleMania social media metrics and how nearly 1/3 of Peacock accounts watched some WWE programming during WrestleMania Week. They believe they are reaching new fans on Peacock, and growing their fanbase on Peacock. Khan also said they have not hit a ceiling at Peacock, and WrestleMania was the second-most watched live event in Peacock history. There was also a viewership record with 56 million watching the event in India. Global viewership was up 54% from 2021.
Khan also mentioned how international business is up. He touted the MENA region TV deal and how they expect significant growth there. Khan confirmed that another Saudi Arabia event will be announced this year. He touted the early buzz for WWE Clash at The Castle in Cardiff, Wales, and said the sign-up interest in tickets has surpassed internal projections, and they believe the tickets will quickly sell when put on sale later this month.
They believe the new Fanatics partnership will see strong growth in merchandise. Khan mentioned how they are focused on more original programming, and touted how they extended their partnership with A&E. This second phase of their partnership includes more than 130 hours of original programming – multiple new episodes of Biography and Most Wanted Treasures, and twenty episodes of the new Rivals series, which will tell the stories behind the biggest clashes in WWE history, in and out of the ring. Khan also revealed that WWE will produce some post-shows for certain Biography episodes, featuring stars and their friends reacting to the episode that just aired. He said WWE continues to build their original programming slate.
Khan talked about how WWE is positioning itself for the next TV rights cycle. He said data shows that when it’s time for rights fees negotiations, there will be more buyers looking for live programming than there has been at any point in the past. New potential partners are coming to the table and ramping up their investments.
Khan handed the call over to Stephanie. She reiterated how WrestleMania 38 beat the NFL Super Bowl with reach across social and digital media. She touted more of the WrestleMania Week numbers found in the press release linked above. She mentioned how WrestleMania 38 set a new record in sponsorship revenue with $10 million, which is a 50% increase year-over-year. She touted how WrestleMania had two presenting sponsors for the first time in history – Snickers and 2K.
Stephanie mentioned how they continue to see strong performance with their mobile games. They will be announcing a new WWE RPG game soon. She praised the WWE 2K22 video game and how the developers took a year off to listen to fans and win back their trust. She said WWE continues to evaluate the Metaverse and will be announcing more on the Metaverse in the coming months. She said gaming is a priority for WWE, and a key way they reach the next generation audiences as a significant number of WWE fans self-identify as gamers.
Stephanie touted the recent WWE NIL signings, and said they will be announcing the next NIL Class of athletes soon. She touted the success of Logan Paul’s WrestleMania 38 involvement, and how he drew more than 143 million impressions, 119 million video views, and 15 million engagements. Stephanie talked more about some of the highlights from the press release linked above, and turned the call over to Riddick.
Riddick went over the numbers from today’s earnings report and now it’s time for the Q&A with investors. They were asked if it makes sense to bundle the NBCU Peacock renewal with RAW and SmackDown rights fees. Khan said the bundle could be a very powerful tool. He said they have a strong relationship with FOX, and will talk to the incumbents (FOX, NBCU/USA) first, see what makes the most sense, and then move forward from there.
They were asked about India, growth there, and a potential stadium event. Khan touted the WWE Superstar Spectacle event that was exclusive to India from last year, and how it drew 25 million viewers in India. The WrestleMania numbers in India were terrific. Khan said India is a “hugely important” market for WWE. He said they are always taking a look globally for potential events, and that’s how they found Cardiff, Wales for WWE Clash at The Castle. They thought Cardiff was the right place at the right time for a stadium show, and they are very optimistic on it. So they are looking around the globe to see where else that will work for the company.
They were asked about Peacock success potentially bringing more companies to the table for international licensing deals for streaming. Khan said he wasn’t with WWE when they launched the WWE Network but he felt they were ahead of the game when they launched. He feels they are still ahead of the game with the Peacock deal, and while some of the international strategies are just starting to come together, WWE believes everything will lead to a robust international marketplace for rights fees, and that they have “deep talks” going in many of those territories.
Khan commented on international live events and mentioned how they just came out of a successful tour of Europe last week. The event in Paris had more than 11,000 fans in attendance, and there was success across the board in each city. He said their touring is back up and running but in terms of televised international live events, they have Cardiff coming up and then another Saudi show to be announced this year. Khan said to look for more televised international events in 2023. He said WWE’s international touring is back up and running, and strong.
Riddick was asked about recruiting talent and potential international WWE Performance Centers. He reiterated what Stephanie said about ramping up recruiting efforts, especially with the NIL program. He also mentioned how they are expanding and improving some of the WWE Performance Center, and while they have not made a decision on what they’re going to do yet, they are looking at it.
A caller asked about ratings being down and if they have rebounded since WrestleMania 38. Khan said if you look at the entire past quarter, ratings were up for RAW and SmackDown. He touted how a SmackDown episode from 2-3 weeks ago went head-to-head with a NBA Playoffs game on ABC, and beat it in overall ratings and the key demographic. Khan said they are confident, but ratings have been strong. He mentioned how a lot of linear TV ratings are down significantly these days, especially with original scripted programming, but WWE is pleased with their ratings.
That’s it for the call. Stay tuned for more from the 2022 Q1 report.
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