WWE held their third quarter 2014 conference call with shareholders on Thursday morning. Here are the highlights from the call:
Vince McMahon portion
* Third quarter results “exceeded” the guidance & analysts’ expectations.
* Touted that RAW ratings went up 3 percent and Smackdown ratings went up 2 percent from the prior quarter, called it “amazing.”
* Noted that Summerslam’s social media numbers were “huge.”
* Touted that they had a 71 percent increase in WWE Network subscribers from the prior quarter.
* On why they dropped the committment on WWE Network subscriptions and changed the pricing to the $9.99/per month, no committment plan: “It was the way to go.”
* Said that the WWE Network has some remaining big countries left that WWE will go after getting the Network into in 2015.
* Noted that the Network will launch in the UK in November.
* Touted that the Network is free in November to new subscribers, making the comparison to Hulu Plus doing a free month trial.
* Noted the new limited advertising on the Network.
George Barrios portion
* Noted that the international launch of the Network will have the US version, but eventually, it will be set to the native languages of the countries the Network is in.
* Network revenue was up 68 percent from last year (which would be considered PPV).
* Touted the increased viewership in WWE PPVs this year.
* Said WWE will continue to invest in programming & technology for the Network.
* Licensing went up due to a higher royalty rate for the WWE 2K15 video game with 2K.
* Live event revenue went down due to less events internationally.
* Average international attendance went up 15 percent.
* Average domestic attendance went down 7 percent.
* WWE has $69 million in cash & investments with an $150 million credit limit as of September 30, 2014.
* This month (October), WWE received a $50 million advance for a new TV deal that was not included in the third quarter earnings. It was not specified what the TV deal was.
* Said that the Network long-term will be a way to help WWE grow as a company.
* Noted that WWE has locked in new TV deals in the US, India and other countries.
* Said that the new TV deals will show a “significant” increase in revenue in 2015.
* Said that TV revenue will be up to $235 million a year by 2018.
* Touted that TV revenue for WWE has gone up by $40 million in 2014.
* First caller asked about the numbers in reference to WWE’s recent cost-cutting measures. Barrios said that the cost-cutting measures WWE put into place went “better than expected.”
* Second caller asked about feedback from Network subscribers who cancelled their subscription and what WWE is doing to prevent subscribers from cancelling going forward. Barrios said WWE is “thrilled” with the feedback they got and the way they can engage with their audience. Noted that PPV viewership was more equal with the secondary shows compared with major shows. Noted that their video-on-demand service is the majority of the Network’s non-PPV viewership. Said that the VOD material will be more valuable as they continue to add more content going forward.
* Caller asked about the slow increase in subscriber numbers internationally. Barrios said WWE “always expected” for the subscriber numbers internationally to increase at a slower rate internationally than domestically.
* Caller asked about current TV revenue. Barrios said while they only give overall guidance with the TV revenue numbers, he said that WWE has a revenue growth of $105 million in their major markets over the next several years.
* Caller asked about the free month of the Network in November. Barrios said those who maintain their subscriptions to the Network in December will be counted as new subscribers for the fourth quarter.
* Caller asked about the balance between international & domestic subscribers to the Network. Barrios said that its “too early to predict” what that balance will be.
* Caller asked about the Network in Canada. Barrios said that Rogers Communications was working on getting other distributors for the Network in Canada. The Network currently has a 20 percent clearance in Canada, so they have “a ways to go.”
* Caller asked about the new TV deals. Barrios said the new deals do not last longer than five years.
* Caller asked about what percentages of subscribers were watching specific programming on the Network. Barrios said that they didn’t want to get into specifics, but the best performing shows on the Network are the live PPVs.
* Barrios noted that the VOD library allows subscribers to watch and view what they want to see and brings a “much broader fan base.”
* Final caller asked if current WWE creative could be a reason for subscribers cancelling the Network. Barrios said the churn of subscribers is currently at 8 percent and WWE expected a churn of four to eight percent. Said its part of a subscription-driven business. Barrios did not address creative at all.
This ended the call.