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.
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.
August 15, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This week we take a look at the success of Total Divas and the surprising announcement made by Darren Young.
Total Divas a hit
Variety reports that WWE “Total Divas” has been granted another six episodes as a result of the ratings success. This week’s ratings grew to 1.67 million viewers which is up from the previous two weeks.
The show about WWE women wrestlers has been the bane of every pro wrestling fan due to its scripted storylines (yes, this is ironic). Yet, the viewership reflects the fact that non-pro wrestling fans are actually entertained by the show. With a strong social media push and E!’s anchor show, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” as its lead-in, the WWE’s Total Divas was positioned for success. However, it was unlikely that anyone believed it would do as well in its first three episodes as it has with ratings.
In the meantime, Spike TV has reset Fight Master to a new time (11:00 p.m.) and new night (Thursday) due to poor ratings. With its new time slot on Thursday, TNA Impact Wrestling will serve as its lead-in.
Payout Take: Dave Meltzer recently brought up Wrestler Observer Radio (subscription required and recommended) the fact that 34% of the viewers for the show are males. Thus, while the show has the backdrop of being about professional wrestling, the substance (yes, I use that term loosely) attracts women viewers. As for Fight Master, at this point, it does not seem men or women are warming up to the show and hopefully using TNA as its lead-in will help bolster the ratings.
Darren Young announces he’s gay
TMZ Sports reports that WWE wrestler Darren Young is gay. The announcement came in a “matter-of-fact” sort of way in what appeared to be an ad hoc interview by TMZ at a baggage terminal at LAX. Young was asked about whether a homosexual athlete could survive in the WWE. Young said yes and indicated that he was doing fine in the WWE. The WWE’s second biggest PPV event of the year is this Sunday, Summerslam. A host of events are occurring in Los Angeles (the site of Summerslam) this week leading up to the event. Young is participating in the WWE’s anti-bullying rally today which, with his announcement, should add more to the context of the message at the rally.
Payout Take: The WWE and its talent have expressed support for Young and coming out. This could have been staged to gain some extra publicity to get some extra eyes onto Summerslam but still a bold move by Young. While the WWE has become more corporate, professional wrestling has not always been the place for tolerance. Just think of all the stereotypical characters that are created in pro wrestling. Also, for those of you that follow pro wrestling, think of Chris Kanyon. Still, Young’s announcement is another sign of the walls of fear coming down. NBA player Jason Collins was the biggest announcement made by a sports figure. There was publicity surrounding Liz Carmouche as she readied herself to fight Ronda Rousey. Without much press, Carmouche’s second fight this past July was against Jessica Andrade, who is also gay. This could be a sign of tolerance by most within the MMA community.
Young may serve as a spokesperson and role model for the gay community for coming out. But the question will be, how will this factor into his character and career. While we may scoff at this notion, can people look past the fact that he is gay when he’s in character. Will the WWE now tailor something around this for a storyline? What will be the fan reaction when he makes his first appearance since this announcement? We will see.
August 10, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at ratings for the second week of Total Divas, ratings for this year’s Wrestlemania special and a big milestone for the WWE.
Total Divas ratings up
Believe it or not, the new WWE reality series featuring WWE women talent is up from its debut episode. The second episode which aired Sunday hit an average viewership of 1.52 million viewers with a 0.7 share.
Keeping up with the Kardashians, the “lead-in” for Total Divas was 4th overall in cable ratings for the night with an average of over 2.7 million viewers for a 1.4 rating for its time slot at 9:00pm.
Payout Take: So much for lead-in help as Total Divas lost over 1 million viewers after the Kardashians went off the air. Still, its ability to carry over 1.5 million viewers and do better than its debut is good news for the E! network and the WWE. Although the content has been widely criticized, it has a following. We’ll see how they can maintain this momentum.
Wrestlemania 29 Special on NBC
F4WOnline (subscription required) reports that last Saturday night’s Wrestlemania special on NBC garnered an average of 1.92 million viewers which is down 30% from last year’s airing. “Wrestlemania: The World Television Premiere” was tied for second in network ratings to CBS’ 48 Hours. The show on CBS scored 4.92 million viewers compared to Wrestlemania which tied for second with ABC’s Zero Hour.
Payout Take: I’ve always found the Wrestlemania specials in August very interesting considering the event takes place in April. The decrease in ratings may be due to lack of general interest and promotion for the special. It still did boost ratings for that time slot on NBC but that does not say too much for a Saturday night in August.
WWE reports hitting 20 million unique viewers
The WWE announced that it hit 20 million unique viewers for its programming this past week. Variety reported the WWE accomplishment. The 20 million was spread across five WWE programs this past week (Raw, Smackdown, WWE Main Event, Total Divas) which includes the NBC special on Wrestlemania 29. Nielsen compiled the numbers for WWE and it was based on the number of unique viewers as opposed to the average viewership which is usually reported. F4WOnline (subscription required) clarified that unique viewers would be any viewer that would tune into a WWE program for at least six minutes.
Payout Take: While one might argue that the viewership numbers could be skewed to reflect more viewership, the fact remains that WWE television is popular and knows how to grab its demo. The WWE chose the week it would have an extra program (which was on NBC) as the week it asked Nielsen to compile its viewership so the 20 million number may not be a representative number. However, WWE’s anchor program, RAW on USA scored 8 million unique viewers on Monday which is more than the Wrestlemania special.
August 5, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at the WWE earnings call for its second quarter.
The WWE did not meet Wall Street’s forecasts but delivered a profit. For the quarter ending June 30, 2013, total revenues for the WWE increased $10.7 million up 8% from this time last year. The increased production and licensing of television content along with the ticket revenue from Wrestlemania 29 contributed to this year’s quarter increase. Moreover, the third hour of Monday Night Raw, Main Event and Saturday Morning Slam contributed to the revenues this quarter.
Conversely, operating income declined in the quarter as a result of “talent expenses” (i.e., paying for The Rock and Brock Lesnar). In addition, the WWE’s new strategic initiatives contributed to the cut in the profits as the big ticket item this quarter was the opening of a state of the art training facility in Orlando, Florida. The 26,000 square-foot training center cost the WWE $3.5 million.
PPV business was down which the WWE attributed to one less PPV during Q2. It should be noted that estimates for Wrestlemania 29 have been trending lower than expected. In fact, it was recalibrated to 1,039,000 PPV buys which is lower than the 1.2 million PPV buys from Wrestlemania 28. According to the presentation, the PPV profits were down $9.7 million from last year. So, while the attendance and gate were records, the PPV business did not live up to its expectations.
WWE Studios actually accounted for $1.5 million to its overall revenue. The much maligned division made $2.1 million in revenue as opposed to $0.6 million in 2012.
Also, still no word on when the WWE Network may launch.
This quarter’s earnings showed the company’s strength is its television shows. It also showed that it is willing to spend money to make money. The WWE Network is still out there and the company continues to spend money toward its launch someday. The building of a state of the art training facility reflects a big investment in training a next generation of sports entertainers. The question is whether these investments will see a return and when.
The Wrestlemania PPV buys are disappointing considering the amount of money it spent on talent and production. We should note that this was the first time the WWE raised its PPV price point to $70 for HD.