February 20, 2015
Cassandra Frazier widow of the late WWE wrestler Nelson Lee Frazier (aka Mabel, Viscera, Big Daddy, V, King Mabel) has sued the WWE in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Tennessee.
The 124 page claims that Frazier suffered multiple head injuries/concussions while he wrestled with the WWE. The Complaint claims negligence, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and loss of consortium, a personal injury to Ms. Frazier among other claims asserted in the Complaint.
Frazier, who weighed near 500 pounds while wrestling for the WWE, died of a heart attack on February 18, 2014 at the age of 43. Perhaps in honor of the anniversary of his death, the lawsuit was filed February 18, 2015.
The Complaint includes a timeline of events in which Frazier suffered injuries while working for the WWE. It also includes a list of nearly 40 WWE wrestlers (photos of each included) that have passed due to issues related to head trauma. Notably, the lawsuit includes some information revealed by CM Punk and Colt Cabana on Cabana’s infamous podcast last year.
Ms. Frazier claimed her husband suffered concussion symptoms, CTE, disfiguring scar tissue, head trauma
The WWE released a statement with respect to the lawsuit by Frazier (via Wrestling Observer):
“WWE has not been served with a lawsuit by Cassandra Frazier. If served, we will vigorously contest this lawsuit brought by the same lawyers who have been soliciting people to sue WWE without merit.”
This is the third lawsuit in less than a year against the WWE which relates to the issue of head injury/concussions that may have caused injury to former performers. “Billy Jack” Haynes filed a lawsuit he had hoped would gain class action status in Oregon and Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton in Philadelphia. As you can tell from the WWE’s initial statement, it is shifting the focus to the fact that we have “ambulance chasing” lawyers and not true claims. The lawsuit has been filed by one of the lawyers that filed suit in the LoGrasso and Singleton case. Hence, the statement by the WWE. The Complaint includes information revealed by CM Punk on Colt Cabana’s podcast about the WWE medical policy. The veracity of the statements made on the podcast are in question as a WWE doctor has filed a defamation lawsuit against Punk and Cabana.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.
February 13, 2015
WWE Earnings for the 4th quarter of 2014 exceeded company expectations as it increased 19% to $140.5 million from the fourth quarter of 203. WWE announced the results during a conference call on Thursday. The company stock is up over 7% at close of trading on Thursday.
During the 4th quarter (October-December 2014), the WWE Network added 85,000 subscribers which reached 816,000 by the end of 2014. The “free” November promotion was credited with adding 242,000 trial subscribers. It appears that the WWE seeks to replicate this strategy with a free February for new subscribers. In January 2015, the network indicated it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.
On the conference call, WWE CFO George Barrios stated that the network reached 1.4 million unique subscribers as of the January 27th “1 million subscriber announcement” with 71% of the subscribers’ active at that date.
The U.S. version of the WWE Network was made available in more than 170 countries and territories in August 2014 and had approximately 44,000 international subscribers. Barrios indicated that he hoped the network would be available in all of Canada by Wrestlemania this year. The WWE also announced a deal for the Network with OSN in the Middle East and North Africa.
Overall, in 2014, the Network revenues reached $115 million which reflected an almost “break even OIBDA for the year” according to Barrios. The WWE’s adjusted OIBDA (Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization) for the Network was $5.1 million.
Vince McMahon noted that its social media reached over 454 million followers as of the end of January and that its YouTube content reached over 3.9 billion which put it as the number one sports channel on the platform overtaking the NBA.
One of the interesting things coming out of the conference call was the question about whether the outrage over the outcome of the Royal Rumble was a concern. Essentially, WWE fans angered that Roman Reigns won the Rumble started a #cancelwwenetwork twitter hashtag. McMahon stated that the controversy was good for the WWE. More importantly, it did not result in substantial losses in subscribers.
There was a question by an analyst about whether the WWE could compare and contrast its fan base with that of MMA. Barrios indicated that the WWE is “multi-generational family viewing.” The inference is that MMA is for a different demo, namely the young adult demographic. Thus, the WWE has a broader audience.
Other tidbits worth noting:
- WWE Network advertising revenues in the quarter were not substantial.
- WrestleMania, the company’s biggest event, will continue to be carried by satellite and cable providers despite also being carried on the Network. Barrios stated that the pricing is set by the cable operators.
- When asked about subscription “churn” post-WrestleMania, Barrios indicated that it would provide “great content” and indicated that there would be “a lot of new content” which the WWE intends to combat the possibility of subscribers dropping the Network after WrestleMania.
One note to mention about the Network is the success the company had with the strategy of “sampling.”. The company attributes some of the additional subscribers to the “free” November. The WWE hopes that it will happen again with a “free” February. The Network may still be behind the projections but it is catching on and will gain more subscribers as it expands globally.
It is interesting that WrestleMania will still be available on the Network for $10 (per month) while satellite and cable operators will likely charge $60 for it.
January 27, 2015
The WWE announced that its WWE Network has surpassed 1 million subscribers in just 11 months. Despite early concerns about retaining subscribers, the company has hit a significant benchmark with its digital platform.
The announcement comes a week ahead of its 4th Quarter earnings for 2014. The increase in its subscribers is a dramatic turn from its 3rd Quarter announcement of 731,000 viewers. The WWE offered a free November for potential subscribers to have a chance to check it out. It appears that this promotion, the appearance of “The Rock” and others at the Royal Rumble as well as launching the network in the U.K. and Ireland have helped boost the subscription number.
The results reflect a 37% increase globally and 24% domestically. Despite the buzz that people were going to cancel the network en masse due to the Royal Rumble result, the show actually reflected positive gains.
WWE stock is up 20% on Tuesday at the time of this writing.
Great news for the WWE Network as it is near the 1.4 million subscriber number which would put the WWE investment in the platform at break even. It is behind its projected 1.25 million subscriber number per Dave Meltzer. Yet, with the rumor that it will once again offer a free February and with “Wrestlemania Season” upon us, the subscription number should remain solid for now. The 1 million subscribers could be attributed to the “Free November” which was interesting considering the content during that month was not astounding. MMA Payout will keep you posted on the earnings report next week.
January 20, 2015
Two former WWE wrestlers have sued the company in Federal Court in Philadelphia claiming they suffer from serious brain injuries as a result of “repeated concussions” in the ring. The lawsuit is said to be similar to the one filed by “Billy Jack” Haynes in Oregon.
Vito “Big Vito” LoGrasso and Evan “Adam Mercer” Singleton are the plaintiffs. The lawsuit seeks class action status and accuses the WWE of “selling violence” and turning a blind eye to the health of its wrestlers including “ignoring” concussions suffered by the plaintiffs.
LoGrasso wrestled for the WWE from 1991 to 1998 and from 2005 to 2006. He claims to suffer from “serious neurological damage.” Singleton wrestled for WWE from 2012 to 2013 and was one of the youngest wresters in WWE history at 19. He also claims to have “an array of serious symptoms” as a result of his time in the WWE.
The WWE’s attorney, Jerry McDevitt, claims that the company has “never concealed any medical information related to concussions, or others.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified economic damages and medical monitoring.
LoGrasso is now 50 years old and Singleton is only 22.
It will be interesting to see if this lawsuit will be tied with the Haynes lawsuit. One of the law firms involved in the LoGrasso/Singleton lawsuit may be involved with the Haynes litigation as well. The WWE will file its response to the Haynes lawsuit shortly. LoGrasso’s stint in the WWE should help with the claims as both Haynes and Singleton had shorter stints with the company. These lawsuits appear to be patterned after the NFL concussion lawsuits. We will see if more wrestlers join the litigation which may evolve into a class action. If that is the case, it could spell big trouble for the WWE.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.
January 9, 2015
In the second half of its third season, WWE Total Divas drew a season high rating average of 1.41 million viewers according to Television By Numbers. The WWE reality show on the E! network received help from the Kardashians.
Total Divas drew a 0.7 rating while it was aided by lead-in Kourtney & Khloe Take the Hamptons which drew 1.836 million viewers and a 0.9 rating. It was the season finale for the Kardashian show. The show which is morphing into its own reality to the annoyance of some WWE fans is building its own audience in addition to WWE followers.
Payout Take: Total Divas did not lose a lot of audience from the Kardashians which is an actual positive sign. Notably, the Kardashian replay which took place after Total Divas drew 806,000 viewers for a 0.4 rating.
January 6, 2015
2014 was supposed to be a big year for the WWE. With the launch of its network and its media rights fees up for grabs, the company stock skyrocketed on speculation that the company would become an instant revenue-generating machine. The stock went as high as $31.39 in March but fell to $10.85 just two months later due to market realities.
WWE Network Launches
In February, the WWE launched it’s over the top network which came with much anticipation and fanfare. Despite technological issues from launch, people were still bullish on the network. But the momentum came to a halt with the reveal of the first subscriber numbers. With a target of gaining 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014, the WWE officially reported just slightly over 667,000 at the end of the second quarter. It then just grew to 731,000 viewers at the end of the third quarter.
The WWE initially offered the network for $9.99 with a 6 month commitment. It’s key selling point from the start was that those who signed up would receive Wrestlemania for just $9.999 instead of the traditional price point of $60-$70.
After sluggish numbers, it allowed a free month preview in November. It also eliminated the 6 month commitment so that no one would be latched on by a 6 month commitment.
It was known that the WWE would lose money this year due to starting the network and essentially losing its PPV business. But, it appears at this point it overestimated the subscriber interest in the network. With the rollout of the network in other countries, the WWE hopes that its subscribers will grow as well.
Wrestlemania still an economic boon
Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans generated an economic impact for the region of $142.2 million which is a record for Wrestlemanias and the third straight year it has generated over $100 million in positive economic impact for its host city. With Wrestlemania available on the WWE Network and on PPV, the total amount of viewers exceeded 1 million.
WWE renews rights with NBCU
In May, the WWE renewed its media rights with NBC Universal. Immediately after the announcement, stock shares dropped which would indicate that the deal was not near what investors had wished. The initial hope was to double its prior deal of $140,000 to $280,000. However, this did not happen. Low advertising rates and the negative perception of its programming likely held back the WWE’s hopes for a NASCAR or MLS-like deal.
Ring of Honor on PPV
In June, wrestling promotion Ring of Honor tried its hand at traditional PPV. It was a way for ROH’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting, to see where it could take the company. Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reported 10,000 buys which was the break even mark for the company. In comparison, kickboxing organization, Glory only had 6,000 PPV buys for its PPV held the same weekend in June.
TNA Wrestling leaves SpikeTV
In July, TMZ Sports broke the news that Spike TV was not renewing Impact Wrestling for 2015. Despite initial reports that the sides were still negotiating an extension, it was confirmed that 2014 would be the end of the road for the 2 hour show on the network. In November, TNA announced it had signed a pact with Discovery Communications for its show to air on Destination America starting Friday, January 16th. Coincidentally, it is the same night that New Japan Wrestling premieres on AXS TV.
Lucha Underground debuts on El Rey
A new lucha libre, telenovela-style show backed by Mark Burnett (of Survivor and The Apprentice fame) debuted in October. The show was made available in English and Spanish. It has received rave reviews although the ratings have not mirrored the praise. It is a different type of show which infuses drama and action.
Former wrestler sues WWE in first concussion lawsuit
In October, former WWE wrestler Billy Jack Haynes sued the WWE claiming that the company knew of the inherent risks its wrestlers took when it allowed them to perform stunts which included taking shots to the head causing head injuries. Haynes and his attorneys are seeking class action status. The lawsuit, filed in the federal district court of Oregon, is ongoing and the WWE lawyers have requested an extension of time to answer the Complaint.
New Japan Pro Wrestling
The Japanese wrestling promotion will make its way to American television in January 2015 as it will appear on AXS TV starting Friday, January 16th. 13 episodes will run on the network and will have the broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett dubbing in the commentary.
In following in the footsteps of the WWE, New Japan unveiled its own over the top streaming network for 999 yen or $8.40 U.S. Wrestling fans may start to see more of New Japan in 2015.
November 29, 2014
The Sports Business Journal revealed its annual reader survey on various topics related to sports business. This year included questions about the UFC, WWE and boxing.
In a survey related to over the top networks, readers indicated that the UFC is the “Fight sport” that will see the biggest growth over the next five years. Of the 684 readers that responded, the UFC garnered 72% while boxing drew 17% and the WWE had 11%.
It also asked readers which over-the-top service was their favorite. Of the 818 responses, NFL Now drew the most votes with only 11%, followed by 120 Sports with 9%, WWE Network with 4% and then UFC Fight Pass with just 1%. Notably, 75% of the respondents stated it did not watch any of them.
On an unrelated, yet interesting note on digital league subscriptions, readers found MLB.tv (22% of the 818 respondents) their favorite followed by NFL Sunday Ticket (18%) with NHL GameCenter Live coming in third (14%). This is interesting considering the NFL usually takes tops with its coverage.
SBJ indicates it has a readership of over 54,000 with many business executives in sports reading the trade publication. The UFC is periodically featured in the publication and the UFC and WWE both advertise in it. Obviously, the survey is not based on anything other than the opinions of the readers. Still, it’s an interesting viewpoint on the business from those that do not closely follow the UFC. With the “growth” aspect, it’s clear that the UFC is moving into more global markets and are forging overseas television deals to advance its product. The WWE is already global and it depends on what organization you look at when looking at boxing. Certainly, Top Rank is trying to tap into the Chinese market. As for the over the top networks, it appears that we are still in the “early adopter” stage for the platform. The WWE has gone all in with its network but the UFC seems to be doing much better with Fight Pass despite the perception from the survey.
November 13, 2014
The WWE and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced on Wednesday that Wrestlemania XXX generated an economic impact for the region of $142.2 million for the New Orleans region. The $142.2 million is a record for Wrestlemanias and is the third straight year the destination event has generated more than $100 million for the host city.
Via WWE press release:
Over the past seven years, WrestleMania has generated more than half a billion dollars in cumulative economic impact for the cities that have hosted the event. WrestleMania 30 also generated approximately $24.3 million in federal, state and local taxes.
The WWE commissioned the study by Enigma Research Corporation to determine the economic impact.
More info from the press release:
-$142.2 million in direct, indirect and induced impact derived from spending by visitors to New Orleans for WrestleMania 30.
– 79% of fans that attended WrestleMania were from outside the greater New Orleans region and stayed an average of 3.7 nights.
– $22.5 million was spent on hotels and accommodations within the New Orleans region.
– The economic impact derived from WrestleMania Week was equal to the creation of 1,662 full-time jobs for the area.
– $10.7 million was spent by visitors to New Orleans at area restaurants.
Last year, it was reported that Wrestlemania 29 in New York/NewJersey drew $101.2 million in economic impact and $102.7 million for Wrestlemania 28 in Miami. In 2011, Wrestlemania 27 in Atlanta gave the region a $62 million economic boost.
Payout Take: Even if we are to look at this cynically and conclude that the economic impact is inflated because the study was commissioned by the WWE and the release does not define “indirect and induced impact” the $142 million would peak the interest of future cities to solicit the WWE to hold the event. Wrestlemania has become a destination event where WWE fans from all over the world come to the city that hosts the event. So, to see the city’s tourism industry see a dramatic spike in revenue would not be unheard of. For municipalities that are hurting economically, Wrestlemania would be a economic boost for the region.
November 4, 2014
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. In this edition, we take a look at Total Divas ratings, a deal for Ring of Honor and WWE halts UK rollout of WWEN.
WWE Network halts UK launch
The WWE Network pulled the plug on its intended November 3rd launch in the United Kingdom because of WWE negotiations with TV operator SKY. According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, the WWE and SKY were still in negotiations on the possibility of having the Network as a TV station as opposed to its “over the top” network offering. At this point, the roll out of the Network is postponed indefinitely.
Payout Take: The delay is an obvious disappointment for those in the UK although it was pointed out that many of the hardcore WWE fans in the UK likely have the network through their own ingenuity. Still, pulling the plug from the launch is bad for short term PR. One must think that the WWE had a deal with SKY which would have been more lucrative in the long term for it to make such a drastic change in schedule.
Triple HHH joins non-profit
Paul Levesque (aka Triple HHH) has joined the board of The Sports Legacy Institute Board of Directors. The Institute is a non-profit dedicated to concussion education and research. The organization was founded by former college football player and WWE wrestler Christopher Nowinski. One might recall Nowinski from the PBS documentary, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.” The WWE has donated heavily to the organization as it gave SLI $1.2 milloin to fund research that could lead to potential new treatments for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Payout Take: The election of Triple H comes after a recent filing by one of its former wrestlers, Billy Jack Haynes, citing that the WWE knew of the dangers of head injuries but did nothing to warn its wrestlers. The WWE has denied the allegations set out by Haynes in the lawsuit. As a publicly traded company, the WWE’s image is much more important and the election of Triple H to this non-profit is similar to those made by the NFL when it was sued by its former players regarding concussions.
Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH) and Figures Toy Company announced a licensing agreement to develop market and manufacture a line of collectible figures and accessories based on the wrestlers and world of Ring of Honor Wrestling according to an ROH press release. ROH is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
Payout Take: An interesting deal for the company as most, if not all, of its wrestlers is independent contractors (in the real sense and not the WWE-sense) as they take dates from other organizations. Still, it appears that Sinclair believes that it has gained enough traction with the product to roll out action figures in time for the holiday season. These probably will not get wide release and will only be in markets where ROH run shows.
Total Divas Season 3 (mid-season)
Last week’s Total Divas on the E! Network registered the second highest rating for Season 3 with an average viewership of 1,130,000. Despite lower ratings, it will return with the second half of its third season in January 2015.
Through 10 episodes of the third season, it averages just over 1 million viewers.
Total Divas Season 3
Episode 1: 1,200,000
Episode 2: 974,000
Episode 3: 1,180,000
Episode 4: 999,000
Episode 5: 1,050,000
Episode 6: 888,000
Episode 7: 975,000
Episode 8: 826,000
Episode 9: 860,000
Payout Take: Although there has been a decrease in viewership for this season, it has gone without the Kardashian lead-in most of the season. It also has gone up against two WWE PPVs this season. This season seems to have moved toward more storylines which have seeped into WWE programming.
October 30, 2014
The WWE announced its 3rd Quarter ratings on Thursday as it reported a net loss of $5.9 million ($0.08 a share) compared to net income of $2.4 million ($0.03 a share) from the third quarter in 2013. The big news is that the WWE Network has not picked up subscribers as projected and now a new strategy has been implemented.
First, the WWE Network subscription number which one may conclude has been disappointing so far. This past quarter, it had just picked up a total of 31,000 subscribers total (including international subscribers). Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal (via twitter) indicated that it had a gross subscriber add of 286,000 to end up with the 31,000 number. As Fisher points out, lots of “churn” from people subscribing then dropping the network. In its first quarter of offering the Network in Canada, it added just 28,000 subscribers.
Average Paid Subscribers (numbers from WWE Investor Relations)
Q1 – N/A
Q2 – 665,000
Q3 – 723,000
Q1 – N/A
Q2 – 406,000
Q3 – 515,000
Perhaps as a direct result of this poor number, the WWE announced in an email to its subscribers that it will no longer require a 6 month commitment for those paying $9.99 per month as of the December billing period.
In addition, it now will be offering the Network for free to new subscribers for the entire month of November. You will see the new catchphrase/hashtag #FreeFreeFree everywhere.
In other segments of the business, from data from the WWE, the WWE is off of its 2013 earnings in domestic attendance, home entertainment ($718,000 vs. $429,000) and of course, PPV buys ($761,000 vs. $285,000 – which is due to Network). Online merchandise was up and the International attendance average for this quarter has gone up in comparison to last year.
On the brighter side, the WWE stated in a press release that revenue from its “seven new key television agreements is expected to increase from approximately $130 million in 2014 to approximately $235 million in 2018, providing over $100 million of revenue growth subject to counterparty risks.”
Overall, the WWEN is up 68% from the prior year but the financial investment of $5.1 million due to lost PPV revenue and additional costs have impacted the initial gain. The WWE hopes that availability in the UK will continue to grow the network but so far it does not seem to show growth with it overseas.
At the time of this writing, WWE stock is down 6% to $12.48 in early morning trading. This is before its earnings call scheduled for 8amPT/11amET.
The new strategies offered by WWE with its Network (no commitment/free to new subs in November) infer strong concern as it is way off its projections at this point. Earlier this month, it announced that it would be adding “limited advertising” to the network which may reflect a pressing need to find some financial gains in lieu of subscribers.
It’s interesting to see the divergent paths UFC Fight Pass and the WWE Network have taken since both started. While many thought that the WWE had the better platform at the beginning, it appears (from all reports) that the UFC Fight Pass is flourishing while the WWE news is discouraging. Obviously, WWE is the only one that has to publicly report its numbers so we really don’t know the whole story for the UFC. Still, this has been a rough year for the WWE.