April 4, 2014
This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of a copyright infringement lawsuit from a musician that claimed that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. used a version of his song without his permission at Wrestlemania 24.
By denying musician Anthony Dash’s request for the Court to review his claims, it upholds a ruling that the musician was not able to prove he suffered monetary losses when Mayweather used a version of his song for his entrance music at Wrestlemania 24 in 2008.
The background facts of this case are interesting as Mayweather signed on to do a match at the WWE’s biggest event of the year. It’s fairly common for celebrity guests to make appearances at this event. The contract Mayweather signed with the WWE did not include specifics on what entrance music Mayweather would use. The WWE had communicated to Mayweather that it had selected a 50 Cent song for his entrance. But, the night before the event Mayweather’s manager told the WWE he would enter using another song and represented to the WWE that they had rights to it and granted the WWE the right to use it during his appearance. The entrance music played for 3 minutes as Mayweather came in for his match against The Big Show.
Mayweather used the entrance music at one more WWE event.
Dash claimed that the entrance music played by Mayweather contained his copyrighted instrumental music over lyrics. While he claimed that in 2005 he created the instrumental of the song, he did not file a federal copyright for it until 2009.
The court held that Dash could not prove actual and profit damages claims stemming from the use of his work for entrance music. Specifically, the court was not impressed with the report produced by Dash’s expert claiming that he was entitled to $1,019,226 in actual and profit damages for the infringement at Wrestlemania alone.
Payout Take: The crux of the issue centered on whether the musician could prove damages as a result of the infringement. The report provided by his side appears overblown by just looking at the amount claimed. I am half-joking when I write that the U.S. Supreme Court timed the issuance of this denial of review during “Wrestlemania Week.” The underlying facts of the case are amusing considering the change in entrance music and the subsequent request for over $1 million for 3 minutes of playing a song of a relative unknown musician. With the U.S. Supreme Court finding in his favor, The Money Team gets another win.
March 23, 2014
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. This week we look Total Divas ratings, WWE stock and Dish Network plays hardball with the WWE.
Total Divas Ratings for Season 2
The first episode of the second season of Total Divas on E! debuted last Sunday with an average viewership of 1.07 million viewers. The ratings are below the season 1 average of 1.34 million.
Payout Take: The one hour premiere likely did not do as well due to the lack of the lead-in of “Keeping Up with The Kardashians.” Still, to think that this show is doing over 1 million viewers on the biggest night of television (Sunday night) for the week are remarkable.
Would the WWE Sell?
Things are bullish with the WWE stock nowadays as the launch of the WWE Network and the potential for a huge payoff with a new rights deal expected later this spring. But, would the WWE sell to the highest bidder? This is the question posed by Bloomberg in a blog post earlier this week.
The short answer to the hypothetical question is no. WWE stock is parsed into two distinct groups, Class A and Class B. The Class A shares are held by regular stockholders while the McMahon Family owns Class B stock. With Class B stock comes 10 votes per share which means essentially Vince McMahon controls the voting power of the company.
But rumors of AMC Networks merging with the sports entertainment company have been brought up although it appears that these rumors are only “fantasy matchmaking.” While neither AMC or WWE have commented on the rumors, this does not mean much but for bloggers to speculate and generate page views.
Payout Take: Perhaps a conspiracy theory but rumors that the WWE would sell could be the WWE themselves generating rumors to drum up “newsworthy” items as it postures in rights fees negotiations. It would be hard to believe that the WWE put itself in this position in order to sell. Moreover, the perception of Vince McMahon is similar to that of Dana White as the leader of their respective organizations. Neither one would want to lose control of their companies. The company was built by McMahon and no matter how much money is offered, it’s unlikely that he will sell or merge.
Something wrong with WWE Earnings?
Seeking Alpha penned an article questioning whether WWE’s earnings quality come from sustainable sources. The web site cites Thomas Reuters research in coming up with its concerns for the stock.
First, the research indicates that the operating profit margins have been decreasing steadily over the last three years. Secondly, the company has poor free cash flows in its last five quarters. This is likely due to the investment into establishing the WWE Network. Of course, the investor concern is that the network will impact the PPV revenues. Notably, the report cites “other programming like the UFC’s “Ultimate Fighter.” Finally, there was a concern of bad debt. The question here is that the WWE’s allowance set aside for accounts receivables that it does not expect to collect from clients had fallen over the last three quarters.
Payout Take: The article is an interesting look at concerns over the stock. However, there are questions regarding its questions. A lot of money it has spent in the recent quarters has gone to the development of the WWE Network. There are other expenditures as well including the opening of a new state of the art training facility in Florida for NXT (development territory). There is also the issue of its WWE Studios which has seeped money over the quarters after failed attempts to make stars out its own WWE characters and its attempts to revamp that unit.
Dish Network gets chesty with WWE
Dish Network announced this past Thursday that it would not carry Wrestlemania XXX according to Cageside Seats. The move by Dish appears to be in reaction to the launch of the WWE Network.
In its official statement, Dish indicated the move was due to the WWE “not willing to adjust PPV costs to satellite/cable companies, which is unfair to their customers.”
Payout Take: With the network launch, distributors such as Dish and DirecTV were likely upset that the WWE is putting its PPVs on its subscriber-based network. This directly affects revenue the distributors usually shared with the WWE. Thus, the distributors are losing out on the $60-$70 it anticipated fans would pay to watch the PPV. While there was a likelihood that those not subscribing to the network, yet still fans of the WWE would order the PPV, the number is likely to shrink exponentially due to the popularity of the new network. We will see if DirecTV follows in not carrying Wrestlemania XXX.
February 20, 2014
The WWE announced its fourth quarter earnings on Thursday and despite not beating loss per share estimates, its stock reached a 52 week high during the day. In addition, Vince McMahon spoke about the CM Punk situation.
As it relates to Punk, when asked about his abrupt departure from the WWE, McMahon indicated that he was on a “sabbatical” and left it at that without further follow up. Without going further and/or causing a SEC investigation on the matter, McMahon left the door open for future work with Phil Brooks. Regardless of the rumors of Punk released from the company, McMahon believes that its likely Brooks will return. Certainly, how professional wrestling is, returning to the ring is always a possibility.
As for the financials, the WWE loss per share was at $0.10 per share. Analyst estimates had the company’s losses per share for the fourth quarter of 2013 at $0.05 per share.
WWE’s total revenue for Q4 2013 was $118.4 million and it had a net lost $7.9 million. In comparison, Q4 2012 saw it take in $115.1 million in total revenue which earned a $0.6 million profit. The much-anticipated WWE Network costs, weak DVD sales (likely due indirectly by the Network) and “compressed television production margins” as stated in the WWE press release were the reasons for the losses this year.
Some other notes:
The company also released information for the full year 2013. Last year, WWE made a $2.8 million profit with revenues at $508 million. 2012 saw $31.4 million in profits with $484 million in revenue.
PPV revenue increased during the Q4 due to having one more PPV in the quarter. It earned $15.7 million for the quarter.
The WWE’s consumer products business decreased 31% to $14.1 million due to “declines in the Company’s home entertainment business and toy licensing.” Although licensing revenues declined, domestic retail toy sales increased in 2013. It also indicated that “construction toys” have demonstrated strong growth. We may see more of this with its recent renewed agreement with Mattel.
The WWE’s movie division showed a $5 million revenue increase over 2012 but this was mainly due to timing of the release of the movies in 2012.
WWE stock was up 7.5% to $24.74 at the close of trading on Thursday.
The overall takeaway from the numbers is that the WWE has spent a lot of money on the WWE Network. One need only compare the revenues vs. profits in 2012 versus 2013 to know a bulk of the revenues is being reinvested into the Network. The WWE has already projected a $12M to $15M loss for this year’s first quarter due to the costs to launch the Network. The good news is that most of its key areas are experiencing growth and while there may be some concern with its consumer products division, the recent Mattel deal should help with sluggish sales. But of course, the big news is the bullish feeling analysts have about the potential rights fees deal the WWE is set to sign.
February 3, 2014
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time we take a look at the Super Bowl Weekend card taking place at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Barao handles Faber
To paraphrase Richard Sherman, “Barao is the best fighter in the game, when you put up a mediocre turtle defense like Faber, that’s the result, you going to get. “
A thumbs up couldn’t stop Herb Dean from calling this fight off. Even if the fight would not have been stopped, it likely would have delayed the inevitable.
Aldo demos Lamas
“I’m just ‘bout that action boss. “ – Money Lynch
At least rounds 1-4 Jose Aldo brought the action to Ricardo Lamas. The combinations were devastating as were the leg kicks which were reminiscent of Aldo-Faber from WEC days.
Attendance and Gate
UFC 169 drew 14,308 in attendance for a gate of $1.651 million based on the announcement at the post-fight press conference. The last time the UFC came to New Jersey in April 2013 for Jones-Sonnen, it drew 15,227 for a gate of $2.7 million. The actual numbers announced by the UFC point to a disappointing show when there was opportunity for bigger numbers with a lot of sports fans in the area for the Super Bowl.
Only Jamie Varner and Abel Trujillo received bonuses as there were no submissions on the card. Notably, there were 10 decisions out of 12 fights on the card.
Varner and Trujillo received $75K for Fight of the Night and Trujillo scored the standard $50K for the KO of Varner.
Pre-UFC 169 Promotion
In order to appeal to those coming out for the Super Bowl, the UFC sent out an email to Seahawk fans (and likely Bronco fans) on its mailing lists reminding them of UFC 169 the day before the big game.
The UFC Countdown show worked around the language differences of Jose Aldo and Renao Barao to tell their stories. I think this is a major hurdle in promoting both of these guys. It’s nothing against them but I think many English speaking fans find it hard to get behind them because English is not their first language.
The UFC also brought its championship belt to NFL Super Bowl media day but were quickly muted by NFL PR staff. The NFL thought that the UFC was the WWE and didn’t want it to outshine its day. It was not until Jay Glazer straightened out the situation with the NFL did the staff at media day allow the UFC to stay so long as the belt didn’t get on the podium.
Then, look which belt the Seahawk GM was wearing:
Probably small potatoes here, but shouldn’t he be wearing the UFC belt? According to SB Nation, the picture was taken prior to the Super Bowl so maybe there’s an excuse for the UFC.
The sponsors in the Octagon included the UFC”s UCasino.com, Dodge, Toyo Tires, Xyience, Harley Davidson, MetroPCS, Musclepharm, History Channel and Bud Light had the middle of the Octagon.
The History Channel’s series, “The Vikings” was a sponsor for 169 and it showed a promo video that included lots of blood and gore. “The Vikings” logo on the Octagon mat was pretty hard to see.
It appears that Auto Shopper received the same deal as Dynamic Fastener as many fighters had the two sponsors on their shorts. Dynamic Fastener appeared to own the back side of fighter shorts while Auto Shopper had the front of shorts.
MetroPCS offered digital autographs of Urijah Faber.
— UFC (@ufc) February 1, 2014
Post-UFC 169 Headlines
Who’s next for Aldo? Short answer is Anthony Pettis. The cynical question is what to do when/if Pettis gets injured. The Pettis showdown would mean Aldo gives up the 145 belt (I guess you can’t hold belts in two different divisions) and the UFC could hype up a “superfight.”
Anyone left for Barao? Is this the definition of clearing a division? While Aldo may have Chad Mendes left in his division if he decides to stay, Barao has no one compelling to defend his belt against. Maybe Dominick Cruz if he can ever get back but aside from that, TJ Dillashaw?
Odds and Ends
Toyo Tires re-signed with the UFC and will be an official sponsor for the company through 2015.
I wonder if Chris Caraiso earned any extra points from his sponsor, Training Mask, after donning the mask before facing off at weigh-ins.
Speaking of weigh-ins, I do not recall ever seeing so many people excited about making weight.
Faber wearing Uggs at weigh-ins? Does that make him the Tom Brady of the UFC?
Super Bowl Fact. Super Bowl Rings: Dan Marino – 0, Tavaris Jackson – 1
Unfortunately, the greatness of Renan Barao and dominance of Jose Aldo will not mean much when it comes down to PPV buys. In retrospect, when Fox announced that the UFC would be a part of Super Bowl weekend, one would have envisioned much more of a collaborative promotion between the NFL-UFC and Fox. However, there was not much in terms of promotion of this event. Even when the UFC made an appearance at Super Bowl media day, they were not recognized by NFL PR.
The nonperformance of the marketing efforts aside, UFC 169 may not do well in terms of buys simply because of the fighters on the top of the card. Fighters under 155 pounds do not draw on PPV. Is the UFC doing these fighters a disservice by not marketing their divisions correctly? Or, are the fighters not marketable? Urijah Faber could have been that guy but with Saturday’s loss he won’t be able to get another shot unless Barao loses and Faber gets on another win streak. Arguably, the top three fighters in the UFC fight below 155: Aldo, Barao and Demetrious Johnson. But, that does not seem to equate to viewers.
Due to the card and the lack of buzz, UFC 169 will likely do somewhere around 200K PPV buys.
January 10, 2014
LA Times reports that DirecTV may no longer carry WWE PPVs as a result of its announcement that it is launching a new over the top network.
Pay-TV distributors and the WWE usually split the cost to consumers 50-50 on PPVs thus making it a “solid revenue source,” according to the Times article. WWE contends that it will continue to air its PPVs for those unable or unwilling to adapt to the WWE Network but DirecTV sees that as cutting into its revenues.
Via LA Times:
“Clearly we need to quickly re-evaluate the economics and viability of their business with us, as it now appears the WWE feels they do not need their PPV distributors,” DirecTV said in a statement, adding that the audience for its events “has been steadily declining, and this new low-cost competitive offering will only accelerate this trend.”
The WWE stated that it hopes to continue its relationship with its distributors and allow “fans the choice between two offerings.”
Although we’ve heard nothing but praises for the WWE Network, we get the first bit of criticism from one of the company’s working relationships. From DTV’s perspective, it’s obvious that the new network is going to cut into the revenue it expects from the WWE product especially with Wrestlemania, its highest purchased and priced PPV, on the network this year. The WWE would like to get both bites of the apple with it receiving revenue from the network and those purchasing it via traditional PPV. Will other distributors follow DirecTV’s cue in discontinue offering WWE PPVs. We shall see how this turns out.
August 17, 2013
As fall is right around the corner, MMA Payout takes a look at the combat sports pay per views to look forward to through 2013. The bottom line is that fans will be digging into their pockets for some extra money this fall.
The below is a list of major PPVs occurring through 2013. The prices are in HD, because we know you like the best, and its the only way to watch these live events.
|August 18, 2013||WWE Summerslam||$54.95||Punk v. Lesnar is the MMA tie-in here in the company’s second biggest PPV of the year.|
|August 31, 2013||UFC 164: Henderson v. Pettis||$54.95||Will we see a redux of The Showtime Kick?|
|September 14, 2013||Showtime PPV: Mayweather v. Canelo||$74.95||The biggest boxing PPV in years with the biggest price tag.|
|September 21, 2013||UFC 165: Jones v. Gustaffson||$54.95||Two title defenses on this PPV featuring best P4P fighter.|
|October 12, 2013||HBO PPV: Marquez v. Bradley||$54.95||Last two fighters to defeat Manny Pacquiao meet here.|
|October 19, 2013||UFC 166: Cain v. JDS III||$54.95||The trilogy to decide the Heavyweight title.|
|November 2, 2013||Bellator PPV: Rampage v. Tito||$35-$45 (est.)||Alvarez-Chandler real main event here.|
|November 16, 2013||UFC 167: Hendricks v. GSP||$54.95||Johny Hendricks latest challenger to GSP’s title.|
|November 23, 2013||HBO PPV: Pacquiao v. Rios||$69.95 (est.)||Look for this PPV to be bumped to $75. Its Pacquiao’s attempt to stop 2 fight losing streak.|
|December 28, 2013||UFC 168: Weidman v. Silva||$54.95||The rematch everyone is waiting for plus Rousey-Tate should bring company a show close to 1 million PPV buys.|
If you purchased all of the PPVs you will be spending approximately $575.50 (assuming Bellator PPV on high end at $45.95) in addition to your cable bill.
Even with FS1 and 2 showing free UFC fights there are lots of interesting UFC events plus some boxing PPVs to look out for this fall. Marquez v. Bradley may be the sleeper card as it’s a PPV that will be based on Marquez as the main draw.
May 27, 2013
Figure Four Online reported over the weekend that the WWE has officially released its first Wrestlemania 29 buy rate. The worldwide buy rate for this year’s annual event was 1,048,000 which is lower than Wrestlemania 28.
The Wrestlemania 28 PPV buy rate was lowered a couple times from an initial 1.3M buys down to somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2M PPV buys. The WWE appeared cautious when it mentioned PPV buys at its First Quarter earnings call which led one to speculate whether the buy rate did not meet expectations.
This year’s PPV buy rate is likely an accurate buy rate and won’t be calibrated up and down too much as what occurred last year. This year the WWE bumped up its PPV $5 to $69.99 (for HD), $64.99 (non-HD). Could the price point be the reason for the less than expected buy rates. Or, was it the card featuring a rehash of last year’s main event, or maybe a combination? The WWE still had a stellar live attendance/gate with 80K plus attending for a gate over $11M. But, it believed that with the event being in the New York area (technically New Jersey), the company would do a better number than last year.
April 3, 2013
Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post. Its the biggest week of the year for the WWE as Wrestlemania 29 happens this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
New Jersey Area Expected to Receive Huge Financial Upside from Wrestlemania 29
The Bergen Record (NJ) reports that the area can expect a financial impact to the region comparable to last year’s $102.7M economic impact in Miami. In addition, to the financial boon from wrestling fans from travel, hotels, food, rental cars and entertainment, Miami received $15.3M in local, state and county taxes. Last year’s attendance at Wrestlemania 28 was 78,363. First day ticket sales for this year’s event was at a record 52,000. This generated over $10 million in gross revenue as compared to $6.3 million last year. The report also states that hotels surrounding the event are sold out.
Some interesting demographic figures from the article:
Who goes? WWE.com attracts 12.3 million unique monthly visitors, and 58 percent of them have at least some college education and 46 percent have a household income greater than $60,000, according to a WWE website. The company says 74 percent of its television audience is over 21 years old, and 36 percent are female. It does particularly well with black and Hispanic viewers.
Payout Take: The wrestling may be fake, but the money is real. The annual wrestling extravaganza is a destination event for fans and the WWE has supplemented Sunday’s event with an Expo (WWE Axxess), a “Hall of Fame” ceremony and other events this week. The economic impact to the area is what appeals to cities to have this event in their city. Despite what you think about pro wrestling, Wrestlemania is one of the biggest economic generators around.
Social Media Explosion Supporting Wrestlemania
The WWE has announced a “record social media activation” for Wrestlemania 29. The number of initiatives going on this week include CEO Vince McMahon joining twitter, Wrestlemania will stream on multiple platforms including Apple, Android and Windows 8 devices. The WWE also will provide bloggers with embeddable content on a new Yahoo! web site. It has included celebrity “social media ambassadors” including Jimmy Fallon, Lil’ Wayne and Charlie Sheen to name a few. These ambassadors will be tweeting from various events the WWE will be conducting throughout the week.
Payout Take: The WWE is ahead of the line with social media and the brand activation shows. It has taken advantage of its tech/social media-savvy demo and given them tools to play with which in turn will help promote the WWE brand. Certainly, the WWE will be trending all over twitter this weekend. It is interesting that it has not utilized Tout more as it had invested in the video snippet, social media platform.
Hart Family Settles with WWE
The Washington Post via AP reported that the Hart Family has settled with the WWE in a lawsuit involving the rights to the likenesses and images of deceased WWE wrestler Owen Hart. Hart died in a staged accident at a WWE PPV. The Hart Family sued in June 2010 alleging that the WWE did not pay royalties to the Hart Family (or Owen’s estate) for the use of Owen in WWE produced content. No terms of the settlement were disclosed although it is rumored that the WWE will be able to utilize Owen’s likeness and images again.
Payout Take: The real in-ring death of Owen Hart was one of the more tragic events in pro wrestling history. Its good to see that the two sides in this lawsuit have settled and it appears that the sides have come to an agreement on the use of Hart’s likenesses and imagery in WWE content.
March 1, 2013
The WWE announced on Thursday the anticipated price point for its yet-to-be launched WWE Network. The WWE has set the monthly charge between $12.99 and $14.99 although no debut date was announced.
The WWE has decided to pursue a premium subscription model similar to HBO and Showtime in which subscribers will pay a monthly charge for the network.
Via Thursday’s WWE Earnings Call (h/t Cageside Seats):
Based on our [WWE] market research, we estimate that a fully distributed domestic pay network could ultimately attract between 2 million and 4 million subscribers at a “steady state.” These subscriber estimates derive from a projected base of approximately 47 million WWE digital TV households in the US (including lapsed fans), and the proportion of which have an affinity for WWE content, although there is no guarantee that this affinity will translate into actual subscribers. These take-rates are based on a value proposition for the network that reflects inclusion of our pay-per-view events, except WrestleMania, as well as compelling original content. Under our preferred subscription model, while our pay-per-view events would still be offered on an á la carte basis as currently available, the research indicates that a WWE network offering would drive significant consumer interest (including households that currently do not purchase pay-per-view events). At a proposed price per month between $12.99 and $14.99, this would represent incremental revenue to WWE of between $125 million and $250 million and incremental EBITDA between $50 million and $150 million.
The key words in the first sentence of the above snippet is “fully distributed domestic pay network.” As we’ve written about in the past, distributors like DirecTV have pulled back on carrying certain networks (i.e., Pac 12 Network, Longhorn Network) due to the retransmission rights. Yet, DTV did survey its subscribers on the possibility of subscribing. If the WWE is unsuccessful in finding distribution, where does it leave it. Are the projections ambitious? With distributors seemingly tacking on additional charges monthly, can fans afford it?
October 4, 2012
Welcome to another edition of the Wrestling Post. This time we take a look at the WWE’s new network show, Slamming TUF ratings on RAW and the King Mo’s debut on TNA.
WWE Main Event rating
The WWE’s newest show on the ION Network, “WWE Main Event,” airing on Wednesdays from 8-9pm earned high ratings in its most important demos during its debut this week. It scored the highest male audience in the last year on the network with the most Men 18-49 (422,000), Men 25-54 (444,000), and Men 2+ (876,000).
Payout Take: The debut had exceptional ratings in part by having two of its top main eventers (CM Punk vs. Sheamus) star in the debut so it is likely that the ratings will decrease considering the fact it cannot have those type of events each year. But, the ratings show growth for the network and another platform for the WWE brand.
WWE shows its smacking down TUF
On this past Monday Night’s RAW, the WWE ran a graphic which showed that Friday Night Smackdown on the SyFy Channel had 3 times as many viewers as TUF on FX. The graphic was shown touting its social media supremacy.
Payout Take: A valid statement that the UFC should take notice. It shows that Friday night is not an excuse for ratings. I find it interesting that each time the WWE takes a shot at the UFC, White does not respond back as he does to media reporters. Perhaps he realizes who he’s dealing with and wants to stay in his own lane.
Lawal upset with Zuffa matching rights
King Mo Lawal made his debut on TNA Impact Thursday. As you recall, Lawal will be doing pro wrestling with TNA and then fight for the Bellator promotion. Lawal signed with Bellator on May 10 will not participate with the organization until 2013.
MMA Junkie reported on Zuffa’s promotional agreement which feasibly could have retained the rights of Lawal after he was released. Ironically, the issue occurred in Bellator as Tyson Nam threatened litigation against Bellator as he was being held out of its tournaments while having opportunities go by the wayside due to the fact that Bellator retained his rights under contract. Dana White has been critical of Bellator for holding fighters like this. However, the UFC/Strikeforce have similar clauses and Lawal and his agent question why it is in the Zuffa contracts. Lawal’s agent had called White to see if the UFC/Strikeforce was still interested in retaining Lawal despite being cut.
Payout Take: Bad feeling between White and Lawal remain. Matching rights essentially is a right of first refusal which allows the company the opportunity to retain the person under contract usually by matching whatever offer is made to them. According to MMA Junkie, most MMA organizations including the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator have them. The UFC explained its need to retain the rights of those that leave the promotion but in the form of video rights. Essentially, the UFC retains its rights to the images while the fighter was in the UFC. But, it does not explain why it continues to have a matching rights clause for fighters when it does not plan to exercise it. The fact is with all of the injuries, the UFC may have to enforce this clause to retain some healthy fighters for its events.
As a postscript, Roy Nelson sent out a tweet to his followers to watch Lawal tonight on Spike. The UFC probably is not happy about that tweet.