Ross and Sonnen chosen as broadcast team for Battlegrounds MMA PPV

September 4, 2014

Former WWE broadcaster Jim Ross and Chael Sonnen will be calling the live PPV telecast of Battlegrounds MMA from Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 3rd.  The PPV is $19.95 in the U.S. and Canada.

Via BattleGrounds MMA press release:

Two consummate performers in WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross and recently retired UFC superstar Chael Sonnen have teamed up to form what is bound to be one of the most memorable commentary teams in sports entertainment history, and will call the world-class Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) action on the LIVE pay-per-view telecast of BattleGrounds MMA: ‘O.N.E.’ from BOK Center in Tulsa, Oka. on Friday, October 3.

Headlined by the first one-night, eight-man tournament in Tulsa since UFC 4 in 1994, BattleGrounds MMA: ‘O.N.E.’ will award its welterweight (170 pounds) winner a grand prize of $50,000.

BattleGrounds MMA ‘O.N.E.’ will be distributed at a price point of $19.95 in the United States and Canada by Integrated Sports Media for live viewing, beginning at10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST on October 3 on both cable and satellite pay-per-view carriers iN DEMAND, DirecTV, DISH and Avail-TVN in the United States and Bell TV in Canada.  A pre-show will begin at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST.

“As a longtime fan of MMA, to be asked to call the fights for the BattleGrounds MMA event is amazingly exciting for me,” said Ross, a 2007 WWE Hall of Fame inductee.  From commentator to referee to executive and even occasional wrestler, Ross has played a multitude of roles for the world’s leading professional wrestling league.

“I’ve broadcast NFL and XFL games,” continued Ross, “FOX Sports boxing and WWE action, but MMA is a new adventure and one that I’m enormously excited about contributing to. To launch this phase of my broadcasting career in my home state, and with Chael Sonnen at cageside makes it an ideal opportunity and a bucket list experience.

“This is going to be a TV event that any MMA fan won’t want to miss,” said Sonnen, who recently retired from the sport that he competed in as a professional since 1997.  A three-time UFC championship challenger, Sonnen fought his last 11 career bouts inside The Octagon and enjoyed a stint as an analyst for FOX Sports Network.  “I am thrilled to be working with a legend like Jim Ross and, together, we are going to make the BattleGrounds MMA event one of the most exciting extravaganzas in combat sports history.”

Payout Perspective:

The card features a one night tournament featuring eight welterweights including former UFC fighters Cody McKenzie, Brock Larson and Luigi Fiorvanti.   Obviously the selling point is Ross and Sonnen as the announce team rather than the actual card.  It will be interesting to see how many buys this drums up for the organization.  One has to think that this has to be a “break even” situation for the company in hopes of future success.

SBJ reports on WWE Network for OTT feature

August 10, 2014

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) reported on the WWE’s launch of its network as part of its feature last week on Over The Top (OTT) networks.  The article compliments another within the same issue which talks about the new platform in general.

The article on the WWE reports on the tumultuous time it has had with the launch of the network.  Upon the announcement in January, there was much anticipation.  But, after the initial numbers came out coupled with the general disappointment  the rights fees deal caused the stock to drop and momentum to stop.

The WWE did receive some interesting information from the first few months from subscribers.  Despite being off on its projections, the subscribers that have the network are very satisfied with the network.  Many utilize the network at least once a week.  Also, Xbox and Playstation are the two platforms used by most subscribers.  This last part of information would suggest that a younger demo has purchased the network and maybe not as many older viewers (those that one would presume would subscribe for the older content) have the network.

Payout Perspective:

The overarching theme about OTT is the direct competition it has with traditional platforms.  At this point, OTT does not offer live sports with the exception of the WWE Network.  No big revelation in the article about the WWE.  Although the number of subscribers did not hit its target, the users that have it like it. What may be lacking is the older demo that the WWE thought would have been brought in by the vast WWE library.

WWE reports second quarter earnings, Network sub update

July 31, 2014

WWE announced its 2nd Quarter earnings on Thursday.  The big news was that the WWE Network added just 33,000 subscribers from the 1st Quarter.  In addition, it reported laying off 7% of its work force.

While the number of subscribers is off from the company’s initial projections, the WWE indicated that the existing subscribers are happy with it.  The company indicated that the Network will roll out in its present form internationally.

Similar to how the UFC introduced pricing options for Fight Pass, the WWE will also roll out options to its current payment plans.  Fans can now pay $19.99 per month with no commitment to renew.  This is likely to grab those wanting to order specifically to watch a “PPV” event.  The other new option is that one can pay one time the $9.99 x 6 months.  These two options will be in addition to the current $9.99 per month plan with a 6 month commitment.

The WWE also announced a 10 year deal with Rogers  Communications in Canada for the Network to be a traditional pay-tv option.

Overall, WWE reported a Net loss of $14.5 million, or $0.19 per share compared to last year’s second quarter net income of $5.2 million or $0.07 per share.  The wide swing is due to the costs for the Network.

Payout Take:  WWE stock was up slightly to $12.48 on Thursday.  Unfortunately, when a company cuts jobs, the stock experiences a positive bump due in part to the belief that the company is addressing issues with excess.  The Hartford Courant states that 53 of the 762 positions with the company would be cut.  The article also states that the cuts “along with other efficiencies” should improve the operating income by $30 million (before depreciation and amortization) in 2015.

As for the Network, the number of gained subscribers at this point suggests that it will not reach its targeted goal of 1 million by the end of the year.

The Wrestling Post: Ventura wins defamation case

July 31, 2014

On Tuesday this week, a Minnesota jury found in favor of former governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura in a defamation case against the estate of a former Navy SEAL that wrote in his best-selling book about a fight with Ventura.  The jury awarded Ventura $1.8 million.

Ventura won $500,000 for his defamation claim as he denied getting into a fight with Chris Kyle, a former member of the Navy SEALs and elite sniper.  He also won $1.3 million for unjust enrichment.

Essentially, the book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” written by Kyle included a part wherein he talked about an encounter at a bar in Coronado, California where a “celebrity SEAL” was talking a little too much.  In the book, he was referred to as “Scruff Face.”  Kyle stated that he punched him.  It came out in media interviews promoting the book that the “celebrity SEAL” was Ventura.

Ventura sued in 2012 and continued the suit against the estate of Kyle after Kyle died in a shooting at a Texas firing range. He claimed that the book caused him to lose earnings and alienated him from the SEAL community

Source:  NY Times

As a public figure, the standard for proving defamation is higher than that of a private person.  Ventura is considered as a public figure for a variety of reasons including formerly holding public office, performing as a wrestler and hosting a variety of television shows.

In honor of those that have taken the bar this week, here are the factors for defamation:

  1.  There must be a statement that has been published;
  2. The statement is false; and
  3. The false statement must cause injury.

For a public figure, like Ventura, to win a defamation claim, he must prove that the writer had knowledge that the information was false.

Payout Perspective:

There’s no indication that the estate of Kyle will appeal the ruling. It appears that insurance paid the defense for Kyle’s estate and presumably will pay the verdict.  Ventura states that the jury award will essentially pay off the lawyers.  The jury deliberated several days after closing arguments which some suspected that Ventura had proved his case and it was a matter of how much he would receive.  It would be interesting to know the evidence which showed that the incident retold in the book was false.

The Wrestling Post – 05.30.14

May 30, 2014

Before we head into one of the bigger combat sports Saturdays in a while, we welcome you to another edition of the Wrestling Post.

In a bit of bad timing for the WWE, this Sunday its Pay Per View event, Payback in Chicago will now go up against Game 7 for the Chicago Blackhawks as it plays the Los Angeles Kings to see who makes it to the Stanley Cup.  The card itself is not that strong and the importance for many Chicago sports fans will be centered around the hockey team.

Also on Sunday will be the Season Finale for Total Divas on E!  In its second season, (and renewed for a third) the episode culminates at Wrestlemania and Daniel Bryan’s wedding.  This season’s average through 10 episodes is slightly over 1.16 million viewers. It’s likely that it will not surpass its first season of almost 1.3 million viewers per episode.  For the second time this season, the episode will run up against its own brand so we might expect a certain segment of fans putting the finale on the DVR.

Regardless of the outcome of the finale, Total Divas has proven to be an asset for the E! network.  According to a recent press release, the network credited Total Divas for its 7% increase across key demos.

Via E! press release:

Returning series Total Divas is one key driver of growth, out-delivering year-ago programming across all key demos by impressive triple digit growth up to +135% in Total Viewers (1.0 Million), +103% in Women 18-34 (252,000), and +142% in Adults 18-49 (628,000).  Total Divas is pacing as E!’s best sophomore original series in two years (since May 2012) and is the network’s second-most watched original program after Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Total Divas also ranks as a Top 5 ad-supported cable show on Sundays 9pm to 10pm in Women 18-34 (#3) and Adults 18-34 (#5).

Payout Take:  Despite what you may think about the reality show, it has become valuable to the E! network.  Even though there has been a slight decrease in viewership this season, it is doing well with key demos.  In its first season, it was positioned to succeed with a prime spot after its top series, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  This season has gone without Kim and Chloe as a lead-in but still has produced on one of the busiest nights on television.

WWE in damage control after disappointing TV deal

May 21, 2014

The WWE conducted a special conference call on Monday in order to mitigate some of the damage that occurred with the announcement of its deal with NBC Universal.  Although terms of the deal were not divulged, investors took the news as bad and the stock has tumbled.

The conference call did not reveal anything new except for the fact that WWE CEO Vince McMahon stated he was “a little disappointed” in its new deal with NBC Universal.  He indicated that the deal altogether was “at about $200 million.”  McMahon was frank on the conference call stating that the deal was not what the company wanted or what its researched showed with respect to its domestic television deal.  He also admitted in the Q&A portion that launching the WWE Network had a negative impact on negotiating its TV rights deal.

One of the takeaways here is that the WWE may have underestimated the impact the loss of its PPV revenue may have on its core business.

It still projects that it will have 1 million network subscribers at the end of 2014 and the possibility of 2 to 2.5 million subscribers at the end of 2015.  With the subscriber projection of 1 million at the end of 2014, it would have an estimated 2014 OIBDA (Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization) loss of $40 million for the network alone and $35-$45 million for WWE.  If the WWE achieves its 2 to 2.5 million subscribers number by the end of 2015 it will have turned around the loss to an OIBDA of $105 million to $160 million for the network and $125 million to $200 million for WWE.

Despite the promising outlook, investors are not happy right now.   Marketwatch reports that the Former Attorney General of Louisiana has commenced an investigation into the WWE.  The crux of the investigation will seek “whether WWE and/or its officers and directors violated state or federal securities laws.”

Unless the investigation produces material information that the officers and directors knew that it was misleading investors, it’s unlikely that the investigation would produce much.  McMahon alluded to the fact that the company’s research reflected the fact that a TV rights deal could garner double the WWE’s current deal.  Obviously, if the research was flawed and/or not sound in its conclusions, there may be an issue.  But, I would not suspect any criminal or civil penalties as a result of a disappointint TV deal.

Payout Perspective:

Monday’s Business Outlook Conference Call was a way for the WWE to calm its investors.  But the conference call probably did not make any holder of the stock happy considering McMahon expressed his own dismay on the new deal.  Earlier this year, the rights fee deal was thought to be a big boon for the company based on other sports’ rights deals such as NASCAR, but  it did not come to fruition.  Based on the huge hit the WWE took after news of its domestic television deal and the news that PPV revenue will contribute more than expected to the company’s losses, many investors are cutting their losses.  The steep decline in stock price caused an investigation and the possibility that executives will be removed to satiate angry stockholders that saw their portfolio take a huge hit.

Just a few months ago, the WWE stock was trading above $30 and now (at the time of this writing) it’s trading below $11.  The stock has been downgraded by analysts which can’t help foster confidence right now.  Now, analysts will take aim at its network to see if the company can come through with its projections.

WWE reports 2014 Q1 Earnings

May 2, 2014

On Thursday, the WWE announced its First Quarter earnings for 2014.  Despite a loss of $8 million ($0.11 per share) due to the WWE Network, it beat analyst expectations by 0.05.

This quarter in 2013, the WWE saw net income of $3.0 million or $0.04 per share.

The most notable news was the lack of news on a new domestic rights TV deal which was initially thought to be completed by late-April or early May.  Yet, there was no word on the status.

The WWE reported that despite the $4.4 million of network subscription revenue (based on 495,000 subscribers at quarter’s end), it was partially offset by $1.3 million decline in pay-per-view revenue.  Notably, Wrestlemania XXX was not factored into these numbers.  Here, we see the obvious cannibalization of its product. The announcements by DirecTV and Dish Network that it would not carry this Sunday’s PPV are a looming threat to the PPV revenue.  The concerns would be whether purchasers of the WWE PPVs could transfer to the WWE Network to view the PPVs and how much more PPV revenue could it lose if big distributors refuse to air its PPVs.

It reiterated its belief that it would have 1 million subscribers by the end of the year.  It also believed its expansion of the network to more platforms (e.g. Xbox One) and international markets will provide long-term growth over time.

WWE stock finished up 4% slightly over $20 for Thursday but is off 7% as of this writing on Friday.

Payout Perspective:

There was nothing earth-shattering about the losses as most knew that the WWE would be reporting this due to the Network expenses.  The lack of news of a new domestic rights TV deal is hard to read.  It could be good news or bad news.  Based on the stock price, it appears that investors are taking this as bad news. The Network remains the big news this quarter.  While Wrestlemania viewership on the Network and PPV did over 1 million viewers, we may not see these types of combined numbers again.  The news that distributors are beginning to backlash against the WWE for its Network is something to keep an eye on the rest of this year.

The Wrestling Post – 04.18.14

April 18, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this edition we write about a new PPV announced, DirecTV plays hard ball and the latest ratings from Total Divas.

Ring of Honor tries PPV Sunday June 22nd

This week Ring of Honor announced that it would be holding its first PPV ever for the company Sunday, June 22nd.

Notably, the ROH PPV is the same weekend as Glory’s first PPV and a week after TNA Wrestling’s PPV, Slammiversary.  ROH had previously put on iPPVs with some noted difficulties.

The Sinclair Broadcasting-owned ROH have expanded its reach with its weekly show as more affiliates carry ROH.  Of course, it’s at 1:00 am on Friday night here in Seattle so you can still DVR the show. Hopefully promotion of the PPV will attract fans to buy the PPV.

Payout Take:  The PPV can be seen as ROH capitalizing on the WWE popularity and its champion – Daniel Bryan worked Ring of Honor for some time.  104,000 buys is the unofficial number of ECW’s very first PPV – Barely Legal in 1997.  We shall see if ROH can do better in 2014.  ROH has more financial backing and should put on more of a polished product.  Obviously PPV has evolved since the late 1990s and we will see which satellite/cable companies pick up the PPV but it will be an interesting comparison.

DirecTV drops WWE PPVs

Earlier this week, DirecTV announced that it would no longer offer WWE PPVs to its subscribers per PW Torch.  WWE did release a statement acknowledging the move by the satellite company.  “Yes, DIRECTV has decided to stop offering our PPV’s residentially and commercially. The only other option would be to work through the local cable provider.”

DirecTV did leave an out that it may return to carrying WWE PPVs.  You may recall that the Dish Network first announced that it would no longer carry the company’s PPVs since it launched its digital network.  However, the distributor changed its mind and carried Wrestlemania XXX.  The domestic buys for Wrestlemania XXX, the first PPV carried on the WWE Network, drew 400,000 purchases.

Payout Take:  While the WWE is hoping for the success of its network, it still seeks its distributors to continue to carry its PPV.  Distributors such as DTV and Dish saw this as a direct hit against its profits from the WWE PPVs.  We all knew that the WWE Network would cannibalize its PPV profits but would benefit the WWE bottom line in the long run.  We will see whether DTV stands it ground. It has played hard ball in the past.  One need only look at the acrimonious negotiations between DTV and the Pac 12 Network and The Weather Channel to see it doesn’t back down.

Total Divas ratings

Episode 4 for the second season of Total Divas on E! scored 1.164 million viewers for a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49 according to Television By Numbers.   The episode was the first in two weeks having taken off for Wrestlemania XXX Sunday.

The 1.164 million is the second-lowest rating this season for the reality show.  This season’s average is at 1.26 million viewers.

WWE: Record 1 million U.S. households watch Wrestlemania

April 15, 2014

After the successful debut of Wrestlemania 30 on WWE’s Digital Network last week, WWE announced today taht the event did a record 1 million U.S. household reach along with PPV buys for the event.

WWE-WrestleMania-30

STAMFORD, Conn., April 15, 2014 – WWE® (NYSE: WWE) today announced that WrestleMania 30 reached a record 1 million households in the U.S. alone on WWE Network and pay-per-view combined, the first time WrestleMania has eclipsed this mark domestically. With more than 667,000 WWE Network subscribers in the U.S. and nearly 400,000 domestic pay-per-view buying homes for WrestleMania 30, WWE is confident that it will reach its goal of 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014.

WWE Network launched on February 24 in the U.S. and successfully streamed six hours of live coverage of WrestleMania 30 on Sunday, April 6. Additionally, more than 7.1 million hours of video content was viewed on WWE Network during WrestleMania Week from Tuesday, April 1 through Tuesday, April 8.

WWE Network will be rolled out in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics in late 2014/early 2015.

 

Payout Perspective:

If you add up the WWE Network subscribers (667,000) plus the number of Wrestlemania PPV buys (400,000), the total reach for the event results in 1.067M domestic households that purchased the event. The PPV price for a Wrestlemania event is $59.95.  It’s no coincidence that the 6-month WWE Network subscription price is $9.99 with a 6 month commitment, which is $59.94, or roughly the exact same price as the Wrestlemania PPV.  By doing so, the WWE can announce that they domestically sold 1.067M PPV buys for the event, which is an impressive number.  Once you add up international PPV buys, and in the future, international WWE Network subscribers, the number could substantially grow.

All the work that the WWE is doing in terms of their digital network co-inciding with the PPV model is interesting to watch.  Dish and a few other cable/dish PPV carriers have not been too thrilled about the WWE’s decision to start their own digital network and offer their PPV’s as well.  At this point in time, it was a big win for the WWE to keep the cable and satellite companies still offering the event as a PPV.  The UFC and boxing promoters will be watching this venture closely as they observe whether WWE’s new business model is sustainable.  A big part of that if WWE’s hope that they can increase their WWE Network subscription base from 667,000 to 1 million by the end of the year.

Wrestlemania XXX Perspective

April 10, 2014

Welcome to a special look at Wrestlemania XXX which took place at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ultimate Warrior passes away

Perhaps the news of the death of Jim Hellwig (aka The Ultimate Warrior) has overshadowed the post-Wrestlemania news.  Hellwig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, made an appearance at Wrestlemania, signed a deal to be an “ambassador” for the WWE and appeared on television on the company’s signature show, Monday Night Raw.  News broke late Tuesday night that he passed away in Arizona.

The Ultimate Warrior’s passing was picked up by mainstream news outlets as well as the UFC which sent out its condolences.  UFC fighters also chimed in to offer their sympathies.

Similar to the passing of Randy Savage, the outpouring of condolences for the death of The Ultimate Warrior likely brought back fond memories of a person’s childhood for many that grew up watching him.

Attendance and gate

According to a WWE press release, it was a sellout with a gate of $10.9 million with 75,167 in attendance.  Sunday’s event landed 5th in all-time Wrestlemania attendance.

For those in attendance, it may have been easier for fans to obtain unauthorized WWE merchandise as a Louisiana District Court denied the WWE’s motion to stop and confiscate bootleg merchandise from being sold in the area.  An order like this is usually allowed as a way to protect the intellectual property of the company.  However, the court decided it could not legally give the WWE this broad authority without identifying these potential infringers more specifically.

Don’t bet on pro wrestling

While we won’t necessarily get into the storylines from the night, it should be noted that The Undertaker’s win streak of 21 consecutive wins at Wrestlemania was broken by former UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.  While this was scripted, a gambling web site lost money on the fight as it expected that the WWE would not let the Undertaker lose.  Fox Sports reported that the odds ranged from 14 to 1 and 8 to 1 for Lesnar to prevail.  The maximum bet was $100 although some people were allowed to bet “as much as $500 on Lesnar.”

UFC hypes Lesnar

Not only was Brock Lesnar a part of Wrestlemania, but the UFC took advantage of the hype of the event by having the Rock (below), Jim Ross and Steve Austin talk about the former UFC Heavyweight champion.   All of the videos were “Fight Pass Exclusives.”

Post by UFC.

WWE stock takes a hit

The day after Wrestlemania, the WWE announced its subscribers for the network.  To the dismay of investors, it announced it had slightly over 667,000 subscribers which were below Wall Street expectations.  While the WWE believes it will hit 1 million by the end of the year (the break-even point for the network), the stock fell almost 20% on Monday.  At the end of trading Thursday, it is down to $21.12.

The WWE received a lot of mainstream hype for the 30th edition of the biggest professional wrestling event of the year.  Most of this was focused on the new network and how it would fare airing such a heavily watched event.  To its credit, the video stream had no noticeable hiccups which were a good sign for the future of the product.  The question will be whether the negotiations for its rights deal will be affected in any way.

Payout Take:  Although the stock is taking a drop, the broader takeaway from the event was that it did not suffer any tech issues which was a major concern considering the amount of problems it had when it first launched in late February.  At least this shows that the product holds up.  The next big test for the company is a rights fee deal which is anticipated to occur sometime late April/early May.

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