February 13, 2015
WWE Earnings for the 4th quarter of 2014 exceeded company expectations as it increased 19% to $140.5 million from the fourth quarter of 203. WWE announced the results during a conference call on Thursday. The company stock is up over 7% at close of trading on Thursday.
During the 4th quarter (October-December 2014), the WWE Network added 85,000 subscribers which reached 816,000 by the end of 2014. The “free” November promotion was credited with adding 242,000 trial subscribers. It appears that the WWE seeks to replicate this strategy with a free February for new subscribers. In January 2015, the network indicated it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.
On the conference call, WWE CFO George Barrios stated that the network reached 1.4 million unique subscribers as of the January 27th “1 million subscriber announcement” with 71% of the subscribers’ active at that date.
The U.S. version of the WWE Network was made available in more than 170 countries and territories in August 2014 and had approximately 44,000 international subscribers. Barrios indicated that he hoped the network would be available in all of Canada by Wrestlemania this year. The WWE also announced a deal for the Network with OSN in the Middle East and North Africa.
Overall, in 2014, the Network revenues reached $115 million which reflected an almost “break even OIBDA for the year” according to Barrios. The WWE’s adjusted OIBDA (Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization) for the Network was $5.1 million.
Vince McMahon noted that its social media reached over 454 million followers as of the end of January and that its YouTube content reached over 3.9 billion which put it as the number one sports channel on the platform overtaking the NBA.
One of the interesting things coming out of the conference call was the question about whether the outrage over the outcome of the Royal Rumble was a concern. Essentially, WWE fans angered that Roman Reigns won the Rumble started a #cancelwwenetwork twitter hashtag. McMahon stated that the controversy was good for the WWE. More importantly, it did not result in substantial losses in subscribers.
There was a question by an analyst about whether the WWE could compare and contrast its fan base with that of MMA. Barrios indicated that the WWE is “multi-generational family viewing.” The inference is that MMA is for a different demo, namely the young adult demographic. Thus, the WWE has a broader audience.
Other tidbits worth noting:
- WWE Network advertising revenues in the quarter were not substantial.
- WrestleMania, the company’s biggest event, will continue to be carried by satellite and cable providers despite also being carried on the Network. Barrios stated that the pricing is set by the cable operators.
- When asked about subscription “churn” post-WrestleMania, Barrios indicated that it would provide “great content” and indicated that there would be “a lot of new content” which the WWE intends to combat the possibility of subscribers dropping the Network after WrestleMania.
One note to mention about the Network is the success the company had with the strategy of “sampling.”. The company attributes some of the additional subscribers to the “free” November. The WWE hopes that it will happen again with a “free” February. The Network may still be behind the projections but it is catching on and will gain more subscribers as it expands globally.
It is interesting that WrestleMania will still be available on the Network for $10 (per month) while satellite and cable operators will likely charge $60 for it.
February 12, 2015
In what can only be described as deflating news for MMA fans, MMA Junkie revealed that Anderson Silva failed a second drug test for his UFC 183 fight. It is not known the date of when Silva took the second drug test although the information should be obtained shortly.
Silva failed a drug test January 9th but passed a January 19th test for human growth hormone and PEDs. Silva’s case will be heard at the February 17th Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting. Initially, Silva denied taking steroids although he has not made a public statement related to his second failed test.
Earlier in the week, it was discovered that Hector Lombard had failed a drug test which caused his fight with Rory MacDonald at UFC 186 to be postponed.
The number of failed drug tests are piling up as the Nevada State Athletic Commission will need to sort things out at its monthly meeting next week.
At this point, the number of failed drug tests should force the UFC’s hand to implement some sort of drug policy. In addition, it would be prudent for the NSAC and other commissions to do something, anything to ensure that PEDs are not tolerated in combat sports. But, the question of will they is the larger issue. And just forming another committee will not help.
Silva failing his second drug test is disappointing and certainly is a black mark on his legacy in this sport. It also embarrasses his sponsors that stuck with him despite the first drug test failure.
February 11, 2015
The New York Business Journal reports an “imminent” deal between Boston-based startup DraftKings and the UFC which would make the fantasy sports operator an exclusive sponsor of the UFC.
Prior to UFC 182, Draft Kings announced a sponsorship deal with Jon Jones. At UFC 183, its logo donned the Octagon mat. Now, it soon will be the official fantasy sports operator of the UFC.
The deal was announced by one of Draft Kings’ venture capital investors at a conference in New York on Tuesday.
Draft Kings indicated that a one-year deal will include “prominent DraftKings signage at events, a large web presence, and broadcast features designed to bring UFC fans to the fantasy site.”
The company has produced $30 million in revenue last year as it brokered deals with the NHL and Major League Baseball. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Draft Kings and rival Fan Duel own 90% of the fantasy sports market.
The deal make sense as fantasy sports is hot at this time. The article indicates that fantasy sports could grow to a $20 billion market. With the NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver acknowledging that gambling should be regulated and it is inevitable, fantasy sports operators have been signing deals with leagues and teams to be its official sponsors. The growth in this market reflects a correlation between fantasy sports, gambling and the interest in owning statistics for its use.
February 10, 2015
UFC women’s strawweight Paige Van Zant has signed an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok. Van Zant, who was a featured contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 20 last year revealed the sponsorship via her social media accounts and the official Reebok Women twitter account confirmed the signing.
The 20-year-old Van Zant is very popular and although her UFC debut in November was not televised, it was the Fight of the Night and her name received 100,000 google searches the day after.
— Reebok Women (@ReebokWomen) February 10, 2015
— Paige VanZant (@PaigeVanzantUFC) February 10, 2015
It what should be a well-publicized, televised match, Van Zant is scheduled to face Felice Herrig on UFC on Fox 15 April 18th. Although the final card order has yet to be made public, one would think that Van Zant-Herrig would be one of the network fights.
Van Zant is an attractive, young and talented MMA fighter which helps her marketability. Reebok likely needs someone like Van Zant to endorse its products, especially its workout wear for women. Certainly, this should help elevate Reebok’s women’s sportswear. Even though she has just one fight in the UFC, its clear from the public interest in her, that she will be a fighter to watch.
February 9, 2015
Only a couple days after Dana White affirmed backing Anderson Silva and keeping him as a coach on TUF Brazil after he tested positive for PEDs, there is now a reversal. MMA Fighting reports that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will take over the coaching duties for Silva.
Globo, the Brazilian television partner for the UFC backed Silva despite the drug test. However, since the series is filmed in Las Vegas and Silva is temporarily suspended by the NSAC, he had to be removed from the show.
A portion of the announcement from UFC.com:
The Nevada State Athletic Commission, which regulates The Ultimate Fighter series’ exhibition fights filmed in Las Vegas, requested that Silva cease participation in the series as a result of his temporary suspension following the recently announced preliminary results of his January 9 pre-fight drug test for UFC® 183.
The UFC and Globo, the show’s Brazilian broadcaster, respect the Commission’s decision, which will allow Silva to focus his attention on the matter before the Commission. Anderson Silva has been an amazing champion and a true ambassador of the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC will continue to support him as this process unfolds.
The removal of Silva as a coach may be a blow for those fans watching TUF Brazil. Since the show is in Vegas, the NSAC rules prevail and it makes sense that he’d have to be removed pending the commission hearing on February 17th. Did White foresee the NSAC request that the UFC remove Silva from the show prior to his statements to keep him on the show? Obviously not.
February 9, 2015
Fox Sports reports that Ronda Rousey will be a part of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. The issue comes out next week, less than two weeks before headlining UFC 184 in Los Angeles.
Rousey has posted several photos on Instagram account which previews her photos that may be in the issue. It should be of no surprise that the annual swimsuit issue nears the top of the best-selling issues of the year for Sports Illustrated.
As many recall, Rousey was featured in the ESPN Body Issue in 2012.
The Rousey brand continues to expand as the swimsuit issue will have many people who do not know her flipping through the pages. Will it mean that more people will buy UFC 184? Not necessarily, but it couldn’t hurt that the issue is coming out right before the PPV.
February 9, 2015
MMA Junkie addresses the report that came out over the weekend by a Brazilian outlet that the UFC withheld nearly $6 million of Anderson Silva’s fight purse due to his failing a drug test at UFC 183. The UFC released a statement citing that the story was not true. Also, the NSAC code states that it could not withhold such a payment.
These two sections indicate the process by which Zuffa must submit fighter payment to the commission and the commission handles such distribution of payment. Also, only the commission can withhold a fight purse but only pending a disciplinary hearing.
There has been no word whether the NSAC has withheld money from Silva’s earnings at UFC 183. Regardless, it appears the the UFC could not have done it on its own accord. The commission will meet next week to discuss the Silva’s failed drug test and determine a punishment at that point. The UFC and most of Silva’s sponsors are sticking with him as he denies taking PEDs.
February 7, 2015
MMA Fighting reports that most of the sponsors of Anderson Silva support him in spite of failing a drug test at UFC 183.
Silva denies any wrongdoing despite testing positive for two anabolic steroids. Dana White announced his support for Silva and has kept him on as a coach for The Ultimate Fighter Brazil.
Rede Globo, the Brazilian television network partner of the UFC has voiced its support of Silva. Similar to the UFC, it will wait until the “results are released and the Nevada State Athletic Commussion has made its decision.”
Most of his sponsors have voiced support for Silva. Budweiser, a longtime Spider sponsor, will not comment on the issue at the moment but has not severed ties with Silva. Hotel Urbano, a rather new sponsor of Silva’s indicated that it will continue to support Silva.
However, Brazilian soccer team Corinthians has denied currently sponsoring Silva. Corinthians had sponsored Silva through November 2014 but has no existing contract with the fighter since. Rather, the club claims that Silva has chosen to put its logo on his banner even though it is not paying Silva.
The rest of Silva’s sponsors from UFC 183: Do Bem, Viber and Sports Arena had not responded to a request for comment.
The affirmation of support from Globo and Silva’s sponsors is similar to the support Reebok gave Jon Jones have his drug test failure. Obviously, these companies have invested in Silva and hope that its brand is not tarnished by supporting a fighter that may have used PEDs. The standard tact here is to support the fighter until its definitively proven otherwise. Silva has denied PED use and it’s clear he has an appeal process that he can pursue. If his appeal is denied, we shall see if the companies reassess its position.
February 7, 2015
WSOF and ex-UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch became the latest fighter to fail a drug test. This time, the California State Athletic Commission found what MMA Junkie reports as a n “adverse result” following a pre-fight drug test prior to Fitch’s fight this past December at WSOF 16.
The CSAC performed a CIR test on Fitch’s urine sample and confirmed the result. Although the commission did not indicate the substance that Fitch was flagged for, MMA Junkie notes that it is believed to be elevated levels of testosterone.
Fitch gave the sample the day of his fight, pre-fight, and it was forwarded to the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory.
Fitch had spoken out against those that used PEDs in the past. He now finds himself subject to a nine-month suspension and $2,500 fine.
No word on whether Fitch admits or denies the drug test failure but I suspect he will have something to say about it. The news is not shocking considering this past week we learned that Anderson Silva failed a drug test. As you know, Fitch is one of the Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit. It will be interesting to see whether this harms Fitch’s reputation and reliability of truthfulness when it comes to possible future testimony in that legal case.
February 6, 2015
The New York Times reported earlier this week that Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie will replace Sheldon Silver as the elected speaker of the New York Assembly. Heastie was a co-sponsor of the bill to legalize professional MMA in the state which bodes well for a vote on the measure this legislative session.
Heastie was elected Tuesday although a planned vote was to be held on February 10th. The Times described the alternative process in which Heastie was chosen as “backroom” and “selective and sleazy.”
Heastie keeps most of Silver’s leadership team in place but for MMA fans his ascension could be seen as a good thing. It was thought that Silver prevented a vote on any measure which would have legalized professional MMA in the state. Zuffa has contributed to Heastie’s campaign in the past.
Gothamist has a little more on him if you are interested. The former accountant will be the first African American to serve as state Assembly speaker.
Another positive sign that the legalization of professional MMA in the state could get to a vote once it passes the state senate. We shall see what Zuffa does in terms of rallying support once again this legislative session.