On Thursday, WWE conducted their third quarter conference call to discuss the business side of the organization. If you’re interested, you can read the full quarterly report on WWE’s corporate website.
WWE Network Subscriber Count:
The company reported the latest WWE Network subscriber count as 1.458 million paid subscribers through the third quarter of 2016. This is up from the 1.306 million reported in the same time period of 2015, but slightly down from the 1.52 million paid subscribers reported during the second quarter of 2016.
Subscriber count breaks down as 373,000 international subscribers and 1.071 million subscribers in the United States. The company had projected 1.49 million paid subscribers during the second quarter conference call, so the result fell substantially in line with that projection.
WWE noted an $11.1 million net income in quarter three of 2016. This is up from $10.4 million net income from the same time period in 2015. In a press release, Vince McMahon commented on the results as follows:
“During the quarter, we continued to effectively execute our content strategy, which has resulted in record revenues to-date in 2016 and increased consumption across our media platforms. This growth illustrates meaningful progress against our long-term strategic plan and provides the foundation for achieving our 2017 financial objectives.”
Other Newsworthy Notes from the Conference Call:
The third quarter conference call was hosted by Vince McMahon, George Barrios (Chief Strategy and Financial Officer) and Michael Weitz (Investor Relations), and started at 11AM EST.
- Vince believes the brand split is working well, and noted that Smackdown has seen a 16% increase in rating from when the show was taped and aired on Thursdays.
- He bragged on 11.5 million content views during the first 9 months of the year, and noted that outlets like ESPN are picking up on that and the overall value of the WWE brand.
- A caller asked about the recent surveys that went out about tiered pricing for WWE Network. Barrios noted that “he wouldn’t read much into it” and said they are always asking the audience about content and incremental value.
- A caller asked about 2017 subscriber growth for WWE Network. Barrios said he would not offer guidance at this time. The caller followed up by asking if there were areas the company was not generating the growth they hoped for and considered pulling back. Barrios talked about how the success of investments is measured by different time frames in different markets, citing German television viewership as an example. He noted that there are additional people on the ground in different markets to measure that success.
- A caller asked about the hope of getting three to four million subscribers on WWE Network and the current level of subscriptions. Barrios referred to year over year growth and felt the content, marketing and product will continue to improve, but there will be ebbs and flows.
- There was discussion from several callers about TV deals and the recent AT&T/Time Warner Merger. Barrios noted that their US TV deal expires in September, 2019, and the UK and India deals expire at the end of 2019. Addressing what the AT&T/Time Warner merger means to the industry, Barrios talked about content and how the company feels they bring value when licensing their content. He said they are the creators and owners of their content and that puts them in a good position.
- Continuing the conversation on TV deals, a caller asked about the current partnership with NBC Universal, and whether there was opportunity to do more there than a distribution deal. Barrios said that they look at partners as more just licensing their content and moving away. He did make mention to “stay tuned” regarding Wrestlemania 33 in Orlando and what they intend to do with NBCU at that time.
- Vince was asked about why it didn’t make sense to sell and become part of a larger media group. He responded that they like to control their own destiny but are open to everything. “We’re business people. We’re listening. We’re open for business….we’re open for business.” A later caller asked about a stock exchange with NBCU/Comcast. Barrios reiterated Vince’s “open for business” line.
- A caller asked about plans to accelerate international growth, and noted the company did not launch in new countries this quarter. Barrios said that China is the only market left, and the company is working on the best way to get content to those viewers.
Bill Says: It would have been interesting to see if anyone brought up the FloSports.com deal and what WWE would have had to say about that – especially since it appears to be a service that runs in competition with WWE Network. All in all though, the call seemed upbeat and positive as to the direction of the company from a business perspective.