January 3, 2014
Welcome to the first edition of The Wrestling Post for 2014. But before we dive into this year, there are a couple issues to follow up from 2013.
WWE shopping rights fees
Last month, Variety wrote an in-depth article on the WWE’s mission to seek out a rights fees deal for its product this year. Its existing deal with NBC Universal (the owners of the USA and SyFy Networks) is set to expire and WWE hopes to improve on its $139.5 million it receives in TV licensing fees and align itself with the deals from the NBA, NHL and NASCAR. Notably, NASCAR’s deal with NBC and Fox is worth $820 million a year. The NBA’s deal is not up for a year although it is prospecting this year for a new deal with Adam Silver taking over as Commissioner on February 1st.
The WWE has been waiting for this moment for some time having aligned all of its properties to be sold as a package. And while it sees itself as an “entertainment-based” company, it hopes that its rights fees are comparable to sports properties. The WWE’s contention is that its television shows, “RAW” on USA and “Smackdown” on SyFy are as attractive as sports properties that have been driven up due in part to the access to a target male demo and its “DVR-proof.” In addition to its male demos, 44% of fans are under 34 which appeal to advertisers.
According to the Variety article, negotiations and bids can take place until Feb. 15. At the time, NBCU can accept or reject WWE’s final offer with other bids by the 28th of February. The WWE will be selecting by March 4th.
Payout Take: Will the UFC be taking notes from the WWE? It may be too early to determine whether the UFC will command value when its deal is up with Fox but the WWE’s rights will be a unique acquisition. Coupled that with the upcoming WWE Network, we will see what 2014 will hold for the company. At the end of 2013, investors seem to think, that the company is going in the right direction.
Total Divas ends second half of first season
One of the surprises of 2013 was how well WWE’s Total Divas was received by audiences. The season finale on December 15th received an average viewership of 1.29 million viewers.
Episode 9: 1.25
Episode 10: 1.41
Episode 11: 0.92
Episode 12: 1.44
Episode 13: 1.20
Episode 14: 1.29
Payout Take: The second half of the first season came to an average of 1.25 million viewers. Total Divas will have a second season and its likely this will be an ongoing franchise for some time to come.
December 10, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This week we take a look at the location of the next two Wrestlemanias as well as the latest ratings from Total Divas.
Wrestlemania 31 in Bay Area
The WWE announced that Wrestlemania 31 will take place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in March 2015. Levi’s Stadium is still under construction and is estimated to open August 2014. It will be the permanent home of the San Francisco 49ers. The stadium’s capacity is set for 68,500 but could be expandable to 75,000.
The NFL has committed Super Bowl L in 2016 (L is the Roman Numeral for 50) to the site.
Wrestlemania has been an economic boon for the cities that host it. Aside from the event itself, there are week-long activities which bring in thousands of WWE fans to the city. The WWE announced that New Jersey received an economic impact of $101.2 million received from non-locals spending that were visiting specifically from Wrestlemania 29.
For those wondering, Wrestlemania 30 is in New Orleans this year and Wrestlemania 32 will be held at Cowboys Stadium although no official announcement has been made.
Payout Take: Cities clamor to host the WWE’s biggest event of the year. Certainly the hospitality industry does well during Wrestlemania week and the reported economic impact is something that every city desires. The WWE’s announcement makes sense as Levi’s Stadium will be less than a year old with enough capacity and a healthy surrounding region to support the event.
Total Divas drop to 1.2 million viewers this week
This week’s Total Divas episode this past Sunday was down as it received only 1.2 million viewers according to The Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended). The ratings may have taken a slide due to the lack of lead-in since “Keeping up with the Kardashians” season ended.
Payout Take: The ratings for the second half of the first season are as follows via TV By the Numbers:
Episode 9: 1.25
Episode 10: 1.41
Episode 11: 0.92
Episode 12: 1.44
Episode 13: 1.20
Even though last week’s ratings have dipped, its overall ratings have been pleasing and a second season is on its way. The season finale airs December 15th.
November 28, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. In this edition we talk Total Divas renewal and TNA’s new television deals.
Total Divas renewed for second season
With the ratings success of Total Divas, it was given an extended first season and now comes news that it will be given a second season.
“Total Divas” has averaged 1.4 million total viewers since its summer debut, making it one of E!’s most promising new entries and a strong performer on Sunday nights in the 18-34 demo. From WWE and Bunim-Murray Prods., series centers on the lives of femme WWE stars both inside and outside of the ring.
Total Divas ratings took a step back this week with the first rating under 1 million viewers this past week but this may be due in part to the NFL (Broncos-Patriots) and the company’s own PPV, Survivor Series.
Payout Take: The reality show was one of three new reality shows the network announced as returning for another season. It received an optimum amount of push by the WWE (with promotion during its programming) and by E! as its primary lead-in was the network’s highest rated show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
TNA Wrestling forges TV agreement in Japan and Australia
TNA Wrestling announced an agreement with the Nippon Television Network Corporation. TNA Impact Wrestling will be seen every Saturday and PPVs will be shown monthly. In addition, it has signed a two-year deal with Fuel TV Australia. In addition to the weekly program in Australia, TNA will introduce shoulder programming to complement TNA in Australia.
Payout Take: The agreements abroad appear to be ways to expand the TNA brand and maybe keep the company afloat amidst rumors of its financial trouble. On another note, Sports Illustrated featured TNA’s head Dixie Carter in an interesting read about how her family decided to purchase a majority interest in the company.
November 20, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at Wrestlemania’s economic impact on New Jersey and this week’s Total Divas ratings.
New Jersey Receives Economic Impact of $101.2M from Wrestlemania
The WWE and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that this year’s Wrestlemania 29 taking place at Met Life Stadium provided a $101.2 million economic impact to the region according to a study. Its the second straight year that the WWE has provided such a strong economic boost for its host city.
Via press release:
“On behalf of the great state of New Jersey, we thank all of WWE’s devoted fans who descended on our region from all over the world to be a part of WrestleMania,” said Governor Chris Christie. “The entire week of events helped generate a tremendous boost for our economy, and we look forward to the possibility of MetLife Stadium hosting a future WrestleMania.”
A capacity crowd of 80,676 fans from all 50 states and 34 countries attended WWE’s pop-culture extravaganza this past April, making it the highest grossing entertainment event at MetLife Stadium. Key highlights from the study include:
$101.2 million of direct, indirect and induced impact derived from spending by non-locals visiting specifically for WrestleMania 29.
54% of fans that attended WrestleMania were from outside the New York/New Jersey area and stayed an average of four nights.
The economic impact derived from WrestleMania Week was equal to the creation of 943 full-time jobs for the area.
$5.2 million was spent by non-locals at New Jersey and New York restaurants.
Payout Take: Regardless of what you may think of professional wrestling, the money the WWE generates from its annual event, Wrestlemania, brings in tremendous amounts of real money. This is the reason why you see cities vying for the right to host the event. The amount of people traveling to the event from around the world is a testament to the WWE and its brand. It also is a boon for the hospitality industry in the region.
Total Divas 2nd Episode Up in Return
Television By Numbers reports that WWE’s Total Divas scored an average viewership of 1.4 million viewers. The show which airs on Sundays at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET improves from last week’s 1.3 million average.
Via Television By Numbers:
E!’s “Total Divas” on Sunday, November 17 from 10-11pm scored the series’ best episode since September 1 across nearly all demos including P18-49 (903,000), W18-49 (558,000), M18-49 (346,000), P18-34 (537,000), W18-34 (363,000), Total Viewers (1.4 Million) and HH (1.0 Million).
The show also grew week-to-week across all demos including P18-49 (+21%), W18-49 (+12%), M18-49 (+40%), P18-34 (+3%), W18-34 (+1%), M18-34 (+7%), Total Viewers (+12%) and HH (+11%).
Payout Take: The interesting takeaway is that the series which mainly drew from a woman audience is not picking up males 18-49 (up 40% this week). This week occurred without the network’s top show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Despite what you may think about the show, it is drawing.
November 11, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at the second half of the first season of the WWE’s Total Divas on E! television.
Picking up from where it first stated WWE’s Total Divas scored a respectable 1.3 million viewers and 746,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo according to a press release from E!
Via E!’s press release:
The fall premiere of “Total Divas” also surged past its mid-season finale on September 15 across all key demos including Adults 18-49 (+10%), Women 18-49 (+16%), Adults 18-34 (+26%), Women 18-34 (+27%), Total Viewers (+21%) and Households (+20%).
The lead-in, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” scored 2.3 million total viewers and 1.6 million viewers in the 18-49 category.
Despite a 1 million viewer drop from its lead-in, you could consider the return of the WWE reality show about its women wrestlers a success. The previous average (1.37M) is on par with Sunday night’s new show. It will be interesting to see how the second part of the first season goes. The WWE and E! are pleasantly surprised with its success. The amount of women watching the show is interesting as it appears that people are watching the show not based on the pro wrestling tie-in but based on the characters.
November 4, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at the third quarter earnings for the WWE.
For the quarter that ended on September 30, 2013, revenues for the WWE increased $9.1 million. However, this was offset by an impairment charge based on losses from its movie division.
Notably, Summerslam PPV buys were down from the previous year. In 2012, the annual event in Los Angeles did 358,000 PPV buys. But this year with Daniel Bryan in the main event, it only drew 296,000 PPV buys. PPV revenue was down 10% from the 3rd quarter last year due in part to the poor Summerslam numbers. Vince McMahon inferred that this year’s Summerslam was not an attraction fans wanted to see. This could be a direct jab at Bryan.
On the plus side, TV rights fees increased 30% from last year from $34M to $44.1M. There is an expectation that the WWE will broker new television deals by April 2014. The U.S., U.K. and India deals for Raw and Smackdown are due and the company feels it’s positioned to be an attractive property for networks. During the Thursday teleconference, it mentioned the recent NASCAR/NBC Sports deal. While the NASCAR/NBC Sports terms were not disclosed, the 10 year pact is said to be around $4 billion. Previously, ESPN and TNT paid a combined $2.8 billion over 8 years. Its likely the WWE would like a deal in this neighborhood.
Other notable information from the third quarter earnings:
- The WWE is starting a John Cena apparel line to be sold at K-Mart.
- PPV events are now being offered on Microsoft’s Xbox Live and on the Sony Playstation 3.
- THQ’s video game, WWE ’13 saw sales of units drop over the prior year quarter.
- Analysts seem optimistic about the potential future earnings based on the TV rights deal and the WWE Network.
- Capital expenditures for 2013 included replacement of a corporate jet.
Although there was no announcement about a WWE Network, it was reported that Stephanie McMahon did an interview with Broadcast & Cable and listed a launch for the network during the first quarter in 2014. This might be optimism more than reality as nothing specific came up during the earnings call. What was of significance was the success of the E! reality TV series featuring the ladies of WWE, “Total Divas.” It was so well-received that it earned another round of shows starting this month. Also, the potential for a blockbuster rights fee deal is just around the corner which may have some analysts/investors interested on the WWE stock. It would be interesting to see if the WWE does not get what it wants in terms of a deal from NBC Universal (owners of the USA Network) and shops around. There is always the speculation that Fox Sports may jump into the mix for the WWE to give its new networks a jolt. Of course, this is mere speculation here but that scenario could mean an instant influx of viewership. It would also mean an astronomical monetary deal.
October 14, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at how the WWE’s decision to switch to PG content in 2008 has paid off as its sponsorship revenue has tripled.
The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) reports that the WWE’s sponsorship revenue has risen since making its content PG and less adult-oriented. Since leaving the “Attitude Era” in 2008, it has been able to forge relationships with more family-friendly sponsors.
WWE indicated that sponsorship revenue was $7.4 million in 2008 and revenue currently is more than $20 million per year. In the past 12 months, it has secured sponsorships with the likes of Capri Sun (Kraft Foods), Doritos (Frito-Lay), Fruity Pebbles (Post Foods), Hot Pockets (Nestle) and more.
The WWE stated in the article that it wanted to “get back to the multigenerational aspect of the [WWE] brand.” As a result, it has attracted multiple blue-chip partners.
The article is an interesting look at how the company’s decision to move away from “shock television content” and adult-oriented themes to more family oriented programming has paid off. The move has made it easier for the WWE to approach sponsors and for sponsors to approach the WWE. Here, focusing on the “multigenerational aspect,” (e.g., fathers and sons watching RAW or going to an event) is showing its value. With sponsorship revenue tripling in just 5 years, it’s obvious the WWE is a sought after partner due to its key demos and the fact that its content is now family friendly.
September 17, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at ratings for Total Divas which averaged at 1.37 million viewers after 8 episodes.
The unexpected success that was Total Divas had its “mid-season” finale Sunday and according to Television By Numbers it had its lowest rating of the season at 1.03 million for a share of 0.5. Notably, last week was the second lowest of the season with 1.09 million. The downturn in ratings coincided with the loss of its lead in, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. And, of course the NFL. This week it went up against its own PPV. Of course, it’s likely that many of the core viewers are not the same as the PPV audience.
Episode 1: 1.34 million
Episode 2: 1.53 million
Episode 3: 1.67 million
Episode 4: 1.34 million
Episode 5: 1.46 million
Episode 6: 1.52 million
Episode 7: 1.09 million
Episode 8: 1.03 million
Payout Take: Despite the downturn in ratings, the fact that E! added additional Total Divas episodes means it is a success. Even 1.03 million viewers beats a TUF episode nowadays.
September 14, 2013
Ratings for a replay of Bellator 98 on Thursday were up as compared to its live viewing last Saturday night. Thursday’s airing scored 556,000 viewers as opposed to 437,000 viewers for its live viewing.
Bellator 98’s lead-in, TNA Impact Wrestling scored 1.3 million viewers for a 0.5 share. The numbers were impressive for a night opposite NFL Football featuring the New York Jets and New England Patriots. According to Television By Numbers, the NFL game scored 8.79 million viewers.
A nice bounce bank for Bellator although the ratings are still low for a live event. No word on Friday night’s live event from Temecula but it will be interesting to see. The boost in ratings on a night opposite NFL, is interesting and may persuade me into thinking more that the pro wrestling lead-in helps.
August 28, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at Total Divas ratings, a new philanthropic endeavor by the WWE and the plight of Jesse Sorenson.
Total Divas returns to form
The show that everyone hates but people cannot get enough of E!’s Total Divas did a respectable 1.46 million average viewers despite going up against the much talked about (due to Miley Cyrus) VMA awards. The VMAs stole the night with an average of 10 million viewers. Yet, the WWE show about its women wrestlers was up from its previous week when it went up against its own event, WWE Summerslam.
Episode 1: 1.34 million
Episode 2: 1.53 million
Episode 3: 1.67 million
Episode 4: 1.34 million
Episode 5: 1.46 million
Payout Take: The show has found an audience and despite its corny hijinks, it is doing well for the E! network and the WWE. Its even provided a storyline for RAW wherein one of the characters (AJ Lee) calls out the show for being stupid since its not “real”.
WWE creates $100K anti-bullying campaign
Wrestling is fake. But, the WWE’s social conscious initiatives are real. the WWE has been able to reinvent itself into a global company that is publicly traded. One of the more impressive things about the organization is the different types of philanthropic endeavors which it aligns itself. According to a WWE press release, it will offer 4 $25,000 grants to non-profit organizations that develop and implement programs promoting anti-bullying.
Via WWE press release:
“Our mission at WWE is to put smiles on people’s faces and we do that, in part, by supporting programs and initiatives that positively impact children and families around the world,” said Stephanie McMahon, Executive Vice President, Creative, WWE. “We are proud to offer organizations tools and resources to help fight bullying, a critical issue facing young people today in schools, communities and online.”
Payout Take: This is an admirable program that will foster a lot of good will from people that do not necessarily like professional wrestling. The WWE’s involvement is good publicity and allows it space into the childhood demographic which will in turn help its other departments (i.e., merchandise, television, etc.).
Ex-TNA wrestler forced to pay medical bills
The story of a professional wrestler having to deal with their own medical bills is not new. But in the case of Jesse Sorensen, its a public relations hit for TNA. Sorensen literally broke his neck in the ring during a match in TNA. The injury caused him temporary paralysis. News has surfaced (via HighSpots.com and The Wrestling Observer) that TNA refused to pay his medical bills. Moreover, he was released by the organization, along with several other wrestlers, as a result of what appears to be an overall cost-cutting measure. Sorensen claims that TNA head Dixie Carter promised him a job for life within the company.
According to Cageside Seats, Sorensen relied on his mother’s medical insurance (we assume Sorensen was uninsured) to pay for the bills from his broken neck. It appears that the insurance didn’t cover all bills as his mother filed for bankruptcy due to the overwhelming debt.
Payout Take: This is another unfortunate example of the perils of the independent contractor. Sorensen’s story is much more a PR problem considering his public injury and the alleged promises made to him about his bills and his position within the company. We’ve heard of stories of the WWE stepping up and assisting retired fighters (that worked for the company) with medical care and pay for surgeries and/or rehab. But, TNA is not the global company that the WWE is and without the funds to help people like Sorensen. So the problem is the claimed assurances made by TNA that Sorensen would be taken care of after his horrific in-ring accident. Unfortunately, it appears that Sorensen may need to seek legal help in this matter.