WWE Q1 2015 results

April 30, 2015

The WWE announced its results for the first quarter of 2015.  In a release from the company, it stated that revenues increased 40% to $176.2 million which is the highest quarterly revenue in WWE history.  The results exceeded analyst expectations for the company.

After five consecutive quarters in the red, it’s the first quarter where the WWE has shown a positive operating income.  As for the WWE Network, it reached 1.3 million total subscribers, a benchmark it announced the day after Wrestlemania.  The WWE reports that its average of network subscribers is at 927,000 at the end of the first quarter.  Again, the network’s free promotion, which was February this quarter, contributed to the Network’s growth as 154,000 subscribers converted from free to paid subscribers.

For its quarter ending March 31, 2015, it reported net income of $9.8 million ($0.13 per share) as compared to a net loss of $8.0 million ($0.11 per share) in the first quarter last year.

According to Chief Strategy & Financial Officer George Barrios the positive financial results were “driven primarily by the escalation of our [WWE] television rights fees and the expansion of the WWE Network subscribers.”

The WWE indicated that it will implement a five-part strategy the rest of 2015 for the Network.  This includes 1) creating new content; 2) implementing high impact customer acquisition and retention programs; 3) introducing new features; 4) expanding distribution platforms, and 5) entering new geographies.

As for the rest of WWE business, each division, except WWE Studios ($1.5M vs. $4.3M) is up over this quarter last year.  The total net revenues for this quarter were $176.2 as compared to $125.6 at the end of the quarter for 2014.  The Network segment, which includes revenue generated from Network and PPV increased $19.2 million from the prior year quarter.  The Network alone generated $28.6 million in revenue based on an average of 927,000 paid subscribers.

At the time of this writing, WWE stock is down slightly at $14.16 per share.

Payout Perspective:

A good quarter for the WWE.  Beating the analyst expectations is a good achievement by the company.  Wrestlemania was the likely key driver here especially when you look at the number of converted free to paid subscribers going into March, which was Wrestlemania month.  Of course, we do not know how many dropped the network in April.  We will see if the WWE can continue its positive momentum and see if its strategy for the network continues to net subscribers.

WWE hit with another head injury lawsuit

April 10, 2015

Another head injury lawsuit has been filed against the WWE by former wrestlers claiming that the company did not disclose information regarding traumatic brain injuries as well as its “egregious mistreatment of its wrestlers.”  The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  It is the fourth lawsuit within a year filed by former WWE wrestlers.

Previously, William Albert Haynes II ( Billy Jack Haynes) filed a lawsuit in Oregon, Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia and the widow of Nelson Lee Frazier filed a lawsuit in Tennessee.

The lawsuit filed Thursday involves Russ McCullough, Ryan Sakoda and Matthew R. Wiese.  All three wrestlers reside in Southern California according to the Class Action Complaint.

There are seven causes of action in the Complaint including Fraudulent Concealment and Failure to Disclose or Warn and Negligence.  The lawsuit also includes a claim of the violation of the California Unfair Competition Law.  Essentially it’s a state action related to the WWE’s alleged misrepresentation/concealment of information related to “head impacts and related injuries” which were associated with performing at WWE events.

This lawsuit was filed by San Francisco-based Class Action law firm of Audet & Partners.  It requests that the lawsuit be considered for class action status.

A copy of the lawsuit is here via @indeedwrestling.

Payout Perspective:

MMA Payout will keep you posted as the class action lawsuits against the WWE mount.  Although we have yet to read the full 47 page Complaint, it appears to mirror the other lawsuits (specifically the Haynes lawsuit including pics embedded in the pleading) filed with respect to the WWE’s alleged failure to warn and/or disclose information about head injuries to its contracted performers.  It appears that this pattern of class action lawsuits may be similar to what the NFL and NHL have seen in recent years.

WrestleMania 31 sets gate record, attendance record for Levi’s Stadium

March 30, 2015

The WWE announced an attendance and gate record for Wrestlemania 31 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.  In a press release it indicated that it grossed $12.6 million with an attendance of 76,976.

It was the 5th highest attendance figure in Wrestlemania history.  It also set a mark for attendance at Levi’s Stadium (previously 70,799 for the first regular season game for the San Francisco 49ers).  Wrestlemania 29 at MetLife Stadium in 2013 had the previous record for highest gross with $12.3 million.

For the Bay Area, Wrestlemania served as preparation for Levi’s Stadium to host Super Bowl 50 next February.

Payout Perspective:

The company’s annual event proved once again why cities vie to host WrestleMania each year.  All of the events during the weekend surrounding Sunday’s show also provided a great influx of revenue to the Bay Area economy.  Many fans make it an annual trip and local businesses benefit.  While the attendance figure might be skewed, and as Dave Meltzer pointed out, the attendance record for Levi’s Stadium will likely be eclipsed by Super Bowl 50 next year, it still shows the continued popularity of the event.  Even though the WWE has received criticism over the build of this show, it pulled off one of the best shows in Wrestlemania history.

Rousey makes appearance at Wrestlemania

March 29, 2015

Ronda Rousey made a special appearance at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara, California at the WWE’s biggest event of the year.  Rousey and The Rock appeared in a promo with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon which was signed off by the UFC.

Rousey actually got physical in the WWE ring as she gave Triple H a judo throw and grabbed McMahon’s arm and performed an arm crank and then “rag dolled” her around the ring.

According to MMA Fighting, The Rock and Rousey share the same agent.  The appearance was likely part of a promotion for “Fast and Furious 7” which both make appearances in.

It was clear that the UFC had agreed to her participation at Wrestlemania.  Rousey is a big wrestling fan and was in the front row of the event with the other three “Four Horsewomen.”

Payout Perspective:

It was definitely a Wrestlemania moment with arguably the UFC’s most popular star in a WWE ring.  Who said that the two audience demos are not the same?  Even though the physical altercation was minimal, it’s still surprising that the UFC allowed this to happen.  But, since Rousey is a big wrestling fan, it was probably something the UFC let her to do.  I doubt she appears in a WWE match while still under UFC contract without some sort of monetary exchange.

I realize that this is not her first physical involvement at a wrestling event as she did what seemed to be an unrehearsed weak chop on a wrestler at a PWG show late last year.  The Wrestlmania appearance was a way to promote Rousey and the Rock (who hosted SNL Saturday night) at the same time on one of the most viewed platforms (Wrestlemania) of the weekend.  It will certainly grab some mainstream interest on Monday.

WWE-Tapout announce joint venture

March 25, 2015

The WWE and Authentic Brands Group, LLC (ABG) announced a joint venture with Tapout as the brand formerly tied with MMA and the UFC will now be the official fitness and training partner of the WWE.

The partnership is reported as a 50/50 joint venture per the Sports Business Journal.  According to the WWE release, it will integrate Tapout across WWE’s global platforms including TV programming, the WWE Network, pay-per-view broadcasts, live events, digital and social media.

As one might expect, the WWE will create advertising and marketing with its Superstars and Divas outfitted in Tapout gear.  It will also be prevalent through the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida and all “performers, trainers and staff” will don the Tapout workout gear.

The Tapout brand is described as “a newly repositioned fitness lifestyle brand” in the press release.  More from the press release regarding Tapout:

The next generation of Tapout™ preserves the original brand essence and drives a hard-body, fitness-centric message positioned around motivation, discipline and determination. An all new line of men’s and women’s performance apparel and accessories will launch at retail in Spring 2016. New Tapout™ branding and packaging will roll out in key categories throughout 2015 starting with beverages, supplements and fitness centers.

Payout Perspective:

There were many rumors about the partnership and the official announcement coincides with Wrestlemania week.  Although not the same as the UFC-Reebok deal, it accomplishes the same premise of partnering with brands in an effort to increase audience and revenue.  With the fitness industry apparently expanding, the WWE and Tapout will seek to make a dent into the market as well.

Lesnar announces re-signing with WWE

March 25, 2015

Brock Lesnar has re-signed with the WWE and foreclosed any notion that he would return to MMA in an announcement on ESPN Tuesday afternoon.  Lesnar will be in the main event at Wrestlemania 31 on Sunday in Santa Clara, California.  The event would have been his last under his current contract if he did not re-sign with the WWE.

Lesnar indicated it was a hard decision but chose to stick with professional wrestling.  Perhaps the most practical reason Lesnar stayed was, as he put it that he worked part-time for full-time pay.

In the interview, Lesnar stated that he signed with the WWE on Monday night in Los Angeles where the WWE had an event at the Staples Center.  Notably, Dana White was also in Los Angeles promoting the Aldo-McGregor fight.  Certainly, there had to be some bargaining leverage for Lesnar with the knowledge that the UFC was in town too.

Lesnar made a very public appearance at UFC 184 in Los Angeles last month causing speculation that he might be considering a return to the octagon.

Payout Perspective:

All we have to know about Lesnar’s return to the WWE is that he’s being paid well for limited work.  While competing and being a UFC fighter is great, Lesnar recognizes that he is older, with the level of commitment and amount of injuries he’s suffered in the past, it was probably best to stick with WWE.  Lesnar would have still been a draw for the UFC despite being gone from MMA.

The underlying highlight here is that the WWE coordinated with ESPN to break the news.  Obviously this helps the WWE with its biggest event coming up this Sunday.  The amount of time Lesnar’s announcement was given was probably good for the UFC as well.

WWE and NBCU announce new brand campaign

March 23, 2015

The WWE and NBCU have entered into a broad marketing plan the first of which will start during Wrestlemania this Sunday as Viacom’s Paramount has signed on to promote its new film, “Terminator: Genisys” with the WWE per company announcement. “For the Hero in All of Us,” campaign will air across NBC’s network and digital properties as well as all WWE platforms.

The new film, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger will be promoted by the WWE starting this Sunday through its release in July. This Sunday, Triple H will make his entrance to the ring utilizing imagery from the movie. Triple H has a match with Sting this Sunday in one of the featured bouts of the annual event.

In addition, the new campaign includes WWE giving unprecedented access to its Superstars and Divas for creating custom “on-air campaigns, in-show integrations, and social campaigns to its advertisers.”

The new campaign spot created by the WWE is here.

Via WWE release:

Four key, tentpole marketing opportunities have been created for advertisers to take advantage of by utilizing WWE’s powerful engagement at scale:

  • “The Road To WrestleMania” – a 32-day build up to the Super Bowl of sports entertainment.
  • “The Slammy Awards” – an amped up version of WWE’s annual awards show that moves to first quarter in the heart of the red carpet season.
  • “Champions of Fatherhood” – a special series which turns the spotlight on America’s unsung heroes.
  • “Heroes of Tomorrow” – a way to highlight WWE’s legion of young fans.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that the WWE and NBCU will work more hand in hand when approaching advertisers for the WWE product. Perhaps this is an effort to attract more advertisers with the eventual end game of boosting ad sales of the WWE product.   The new strategy hopes to capitalize on the WWE’s broad social media and digital presence and NBCU broad scope of mainstream contacts to enhance advertising for the WWE.

WWE partners with DraftKings

March 19, 2015

DraftKings and the WWE announced a partnership on Wednesday which will see the Boston-based fantasy sports operator initiate a contest where a fan will win a trip to the WWE’s SummerSlam which will be held at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York this year.

The winner of the contest will have the opportunity to attend SummerSlam as well as access to a VIP party where they will get to meet WWE Superstars and Divas.

DraftKings will be a promotional partner for SummerSlam which will entail integration within the event’s telecast on the WWE Network and PPV. It will also include integration within the WWE’s digital and social media platforms. DraftKings will also launch an integrated media campaign on WWE’s platforms leading up to this month’s WrestleMania 31.

Via a portion of the WWE’s press release:

“As daily fantasy sports continue to grow in popularity, we’ve seen dramatic growth in interest from fans in the WWE community,” said Jason Robins, Co-founder and CEO of DraftKings. “WWE is extremely creative when it comes to engaging their fans, and has been a great partner for DraftKings in developing contests and one-of-a-kind new experiences that fans are sure to enjoy.”

“We are always looking for innovative ways to deliver unique experiences to our fans,” said Michelle Wilson, WWE Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer. “WWE’s partnership with DraftKings will deliver an extraordinary opportunity to our fans, while providing DraftKings with maximum exposure during two of our biggest global events, WrestleMania and SummerSlam.”

For info on the contest visit here. The contest runs through April 15th.

Payout Perspective:

Until a year ago, I did not know that you could gamble on professional wrestling. Sure, DraftKings is “fantasy sports” but we understand the similarities.  The partnership makes sense from the perspective that the WWE does a great job with its social media and digital platforms and the exposure to a broad audience should assist DraftKings. For the WWE, DraftKings provides another sponsor as well as help assisting it with promoting the two biggest events of its year.

As we know, DraftKings signed a sponsorship deal with the UFC earlier this year.  Activations for each company appear to differ but the general takeaway is that fantasy sports is growing and expanding.

WWE-Lesnar contract negotiations stall

February 26, 2015

Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting reports that Brock Lesnar and the WWE have stalled in negotiations on a new contract.  The former UFC heavyweight champ could be heading back to MMA with either Bellator or the UFC.

Lesnar was advertised to appear on this week’s WWE Raw on Monday but never appeared despite being at the arena.  Meltzer’s sources indicated that the no-show was due to an impasse on a new contract.  It was described as “resolvable, but not yet resolved.”

Lesnar has 4 appearances left with the WWE before his contract expires.  The WWE would like to extend his contract prior to it ending at this year’s Wrestlemania in March.

Despite being 38 years old, Lesnar would be welcomed back to MMA by the UFC or Bellator.

Payout Perspective:

It’s interesting that despite his previous injuries and age, Lesnar would command a bidding war.  One would think that based on the contract impasse with the WWE, that Lensar has some leverage as the UFC and perhaps Bellator would be interested in signing the former UFC heavyweight champion.  Despite his short stint with the UFC, Lesnar was a major PPV draw and despite his layoff, his return would likely be a big event.  One would think that the UFC would be willing to spend the money on Lesnar as it is in need of PPV needle-movers.  Also, Bellator might be a destination under the new Scott Coker regime.

Punk and Cabana sued by WWE doctor

February 21, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that UFC fighter CM Punk and indy wrestler Colt Cabana are being sued by a WWE doctor for defamation among other claims resulting from Punk’s comments on Cabana’s “Art of Wrestling” podcast last year.

The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court (IL) by WWE doctor Christopher M. Amann accuses the former WWE wrestlers (Cabana had a brief stint with the company) of making defamatory statements regarding his professional duties as a medical doctor for the company.

In support of Dr. Amann, the WWE has released a statement and video which refutes Punk’s story told on Cabana’s podcast that he had a MRSA staph infection on his back and Dr. Amann misdiagnosed it.  Punk also indicated that the doctor did not treat him for a concussion.

Cabana was sued as Dr. Amann claims that he “helped Brooks falsely depict Amann as lazy and a bad doctor per the Cook County Record.

Payout Perspective:

When I first heard the much heralded podcast where Punk aired out the WWE, I wondered about whether there would be any response by the WWE on the comments made by Punk on how his injuries were addressed. It appears that the lawsuit is the response.  Certainly a physician filing a defamation claim against what was essentially a patient are unusual.  One might think that Punk may now bring a counterclaim alleging medical malpractice based on his side of the story from Cabana’s podcast.  Then again, the WWE statement (via the Wrestling Observer) includes a claim that there are no medical records documenting Punk’s condition and that Punk did not communicate his condition (i.e., lump on back) with the WWE’s doctors.

The news of Punk’s health will be interesting when he applies for a license to fight.  We will see if this lawsuit brings up additional information since it is an issue in this lawsuit.  Punk is at an “advanced age” for a first-time MMA fighter and one would think an athletic commission would look more closely at his health history when issuing him a license.

But, the Punk-WWE legal issues look to continue.

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