Reality From Ringside #38
November 9, 2009
By: Doug Lackey of

Financial Statements: Lessons in Booking

I have very odd tastes. Some listen to radio for music or sports, I listen to National Public Radio. When bored, some channel surf or watch a DVD, I watch C-SPAN. For your reading pleasure you might consider a nice suspense novel or magazine on the hobby of your choosing.

What do I read in my spare time? Government documents and financial statements.

Think about it? newspapers, web periodicals, and television programs are filtered and rehashed through the eyes and ears of corporations for the sake of ratings and advertising revenue. It is only through government documents and financial statements that you can look at the evidence and make your own judgments on why it is so instead of having a news anchor, political pundit, or time-constrained columnist piece everything together for you in bite-size morsels.

With all of this said, WWE recently released their 3rd quarter financials for 2009. Needless to say, my eyebrows rose on more than one occasion while thumbing through the millions of dollars spent and earned, the percentages gained and lost. If you would like to read them at your leisure or challenge yourself, check them out here: WWE 3rd Quarter Financials.

What I love about reading financial statements are the reasons companies give for gains and losses. It is truly an art form to behold; public relations diligently using abstract and ambiguous vocabulary as to deter shareholders and investors away from ripping their finely-quaffed hair from their skulls and crushing the panic button.

I give you WWE’s 3rd quarter numbers for pay-per-view revenues. There was a 10% decline in total pay-per-view buys, $14.5 million as compared to $16.4 million in the prior year quarter. The number of purchases dropped by nearly 100,000 compared to 2008. WWE’s reasoning? ??a higher percentage of international buys, which are generally lower in price.?

Translation in layman’s terms with acerbic cynical wit: ?There are more people who are not from America watching our pay-per-views and paying less for them. At the same time, Americans aren?t buying what were selling.?

Prepare yourselves, we about to dive into some deep analyzing and ?reality? checking here. I will need to ask for your complete and undivided focus for this. Alright? deep breath? you may want to have the financials printed up in front of you so that you can read alongside with this column understand where all this is leading.

?Summerslam? purchases saw a 22.6% decline compared to last year’s. How was this so? How can you possibly lose the interest of over 100,000 viewers and not entice them to purchase your program?

I blame Degeneration-X and WWE’s knack for promoting to the point of exhaustion.

Summerslam 2009 was lauded as the second resurrection of Triple H and Shawn Michael’s team of delinquency and obnoxiousness. We had video segments littering over an hour of an episode of ?Raw? heralding their reunion. We also had commercials airing through satellite providers shouting their names through the rafters.

You can?t be telling me that CM Punk and Jeff Hardy’s World Title Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match was meant to be the selling point of this program.

Summerslam 2008 had more diabolical overtones coming from WWE’s so-called ?B-show?. With Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero reinstating Undertaker, she pits him against her lecherous husband Edge in a Hell in a Cell match.

In the previous three airings of Smackdown leading up to Summerslam, we had the following: Vickie announcing the match in week one, Edge looking for guidance from Mick Foley in week two, and finally Edge snapping in the face of a squealing Vickie at the ?go-home? Smackdown taping.

Were the numbers shown in WWE’s financials a reflection of what people perceive of Degeneration-X? Are we tired of them? It’s not that we were tired of Degeneration-X; we were just tired of being told about them in general.

I am going to go out on a limb with this prediction, but I believe that if we did not have all of the video segments leading to Triple H meeting Shawn Michaels as a commissary chef and eventually coercing him to rejoin, Summerslam buys could have been significantly higher.

Viewers of any kind of entertainment are drawn to watch them continuously for the sake of finding out what may happen. It’s the subliminal effect of the cliffhanger. The three weeks leading to Hell in a Cell at Summerslam 2008, we did not see an appearance by Undertaker and were only drawn by Edge’s mesmerizing depictions on-camera, from fear and anxiety to confidence and madness.

There were no questions of Degeneration-X’s reunion. There were no hesitations about their match with the young upstarts Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes. There were no reasons to watch their match last August.

So now the question can be asked: Has WWE learned from their past when it comes to effectively promoting a pay-per-view? According to the present? hardly.

Two weeks ago, the main event for WWE’s Survivor Series was announced: a Triple Threat for the WWE Title with John Cena defending against Triple H and Shawn Michaels. We still have another two weeks until the program and I believe I?m not the only one who is not intrigued or curious with this match at all. There have been no cliffhangers or teasers urging me to take out my wallet and hand Vince $40.

?I don?t think that’s the main event,? you might be saying.

If that’s the case, then how effectively have they been selling the Triple Threat World Title match? If I?d have known any better, I would think they were paying me to watch this match because I haven?t heard reason one for watching it other than seeing Undertaker ?claim souls?, retain his ?holy grail?, and uttering any other kind of vague references to anything symbolic.

Could Batista-Mysterio be the reason to watch Survivor Series? Possibly? but it has been force-fed to us with tablespoons as big as the ones that were used for Degeneration-X’s return.

With all of this talk about learning from the past and attempting to learn the reception of WWE’s promoting capabilities on the viewing public, there is still one harsh piece of ?reality? to reveal. WWE’s profits were up $2.5 million compared to last year; Net income was $8.9 million ($0.12 per share) compared to last year’s third quarter of $5.3 million ($0.07 per share).

People still watch and WWE still makes money.

Until next time, mouth-breathers!

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