Vince McMahon & WWE Execs Talk Saudi Partnership & Women’s Rights, Fan Data, WWE TV Deals, More

WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, Co-President George Barrios, Co-President Michelle Wilson and SVP Financial Planning & Investor Relations Michael Weitz hosted a First Quarter 2018 earnings call today from WWE headquarters in Stamford. You can check out coverage of this morning’s press release on the main page. Below are highlights from the call:

Weitz welcomes us and gives the usual introduction before turning the call over to Vince. Vince says the numbers speak for themselves and show a strong operating performance. Vince says RAW and SmackDown, along with WWE’s other social & digital media efforts continue to push the strong performance. He touted how RAW and SmackDown helped the USA Network finish strong in 2017 once again. WWE likes to think they have something to do with the USA Network success. Vince then touted what he called an amazing stat from the quarter – digital video views increasing 56% to 6.7 billion. Vince says that number is hard to wrap your arms around with such a huge increase. He touted how WWE remains the #1 sports channel on YouTube. He also touted the WrestleMania 34 attendance record for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the 2.1 million WWE Network subscribers after WrestleMania and the 10 year partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Vince said that and most everything else looks good at the moment.

Barrios talked about some of the numbers from the press release issued this morning. Wilson touted WrestleMania 34, new content for the WWE Network and digital/media efforts. She touts how Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook has drawn more than 35 million views to date. She touted a 30% increase in advertising, and mentioned YouTube advertising plus sponsorship deals with brands such as Cricket Wireless, Rocket League, Geico and Mars. Wilson also touted last Friday’s Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia, saying it marked a successful beginning to the 10 year partnership with the Kingdom. She called it the most successful international event in WWE history. Barrios talked about toy/action figure sales and how they continue to expand their impressive gaming portfolio, which includes millions of mobile game installs. Barrios said they are now focused on TV deals in the United States and across the world, creating new content, investing in data & technology, and keeping international growth opportunities. They will continue to transform their business and achieve record revenue, record profits and record subscriber levels.

Now it’s time for the Q&A part of the call. Barrios wouldn’t go into specifics on the TV deals but he said they hope to announce the new RAW and SmackDown deals for the United States some time between now and the end of September. They are confident about sustaining advertiser growth and they are seeing sponsorship renewals. Monetizing their YouTube content will now be a big help. The company is really excited about their partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but they’re still working on future plans in terms of events. Barrios said watching the Greatest Royal Rumble event brings chills to some in the company.

Barrios teased that there may be more online series like Mixed Match Challenge to come in the future. They were asked about revenue from the Greatest Royal Rumble event and Barrios wouldn’t go into specifics but said it will have a positive impact on the second quarter numbers. Wilson confirmed that WWE will be a part of the USA Network Upfronts presentation next month. Stephanie McMahon will be leading the charge for WWE that day and some Superstars will be a big part of the presentation.

They were asked about data as they are currently hiring data analysts. They have a lot of data on the fanbase these days and that gives them a better understanding on what fans like and don’t like. This is an important part of every discussion they have today, something they didn’t have just 5 years ago. They were asked about mobile gaming and Barrios noted that they have 70 million overall mobile game installs. 9 million of those are for the new WWE Mayhem mobile game. They will continue to grow that successful portfolio each year. Barrios wouldn’t go into specifics on who they are negotiating with for the new RAW and SmackDown TV deals but said the deals for the US, UK and India will be announced before any potential mergers of networks happen. They don’t feel that any of the sales or mergers will impact their deals.

They were asked about TV ratings in the US, UK and India but that information isn’t public except for in the US. Barrios said in India WWE is the biggest American sport and one of the highest viewed shows out of all sports programming there. They are still discussing ideas for tiered pricing on the WWE Network.

They were asked about leading the charge in women’s rights and then going to do business in a place like Saudi Arabia where women’s rights might not be a priority. Wilson said, “I think everyone is familiar with the fact that we have obviously been very vocal about our female performers and re-branding them as Superstars. We feel really good about our continued commitment on that front. There are many countries around the world where we perform and we’re respectful to the cultures there but we certainly hope to be a part of the change moving forward.”

Wilson continued and talked about the Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss match from Abu Dhabi last year and said WWE believes that longterm they will be a part of the change that happens in these places but they have to respect the cultures. She pointed out how they have a 10 year partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their significant fanbase there is made up of men & women. Wilson added that they are happy with how the Greatest Royal Rumble event went and they will continue to treat cultures respectfully while hoping to be a part of the change that takes place.

They made a few more comments and that was it for the call.

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