By Jason PowellEditor of ProWrestling.net (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE executives held a conference call regarding WWE’s third quarter financial report which was released on November 2, 2022 at Company.WWE.com. Here are the highlights of the call. Refresh the page for the latest updates.
-The call was hosted by WWE Chairman and Co-CEO Stephanie McMahon, WWE Co-CEO Nick Khan, WWE Chief Creative & Talent Paul Levesque and WWE Chief Financial Officer Frank Riddick. WWE Senior Vice President of Investor Relations Seth Zaslow read the legalities and then handed it over to Stephanie for the opening statement.
-Stephanie bragged that the third quarter was another record quarter. She said they remain on track to generate record revenue for the full year. She bragged about the growth in ratings and attributed success to creation. She talked about the White Rabbit project and said that Paul Levesque would talk more about it shortly. She also spoke about the Clash at the Castle event and added, “Strong IP and better storytelling drives all lines of business.”
-Nick Khan said the quarter was strong. He declared the Extreme Rules event to be the highest-grossing Extreme Rules event of all time. He also praised the White Rabbit project. Khan spoke about ticket sales for the Royal Rumble event and said they were on track to make the event the most profitable Royal Rumble in history. He also mentioned the Elimination Chamber event in Montreal and said they expected tickets to be in high demand.
-Khan said they sold nearly 100,000 tickets for both nights of WrestleMania without a single match being announced and they expect to sell out both nights.
-Khan spoke about the television and streaming deals the company has entered into since the previous financial call.
-Khan talked about a Spanish-language WWE comedy that will air on Netflix. He also mentioned that Bianca Belair and Montez Ford will be featured in an eight-episode Hulu show next year.
-Khan spoke of his confidence as he approaches his next round of media rights negotiations in the United States next year. He also said they are closely monitoring the progress of the NFL’s partnership with Amazon. He featured the NFL on Amazon positively and talked about the effect it had on Amazon Prime subscriptions. He also wondered if another new buyer would enter the market for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package.
-Paul “Triple H” Levesque said the creative worked and the storytelling resonated with fans.
-Levesque talked about the White Rabbit project. He remembers starting it at arena events and leaving fans wondering what was going on. He said they introduced QR codes which led to games and other aspects “that took you further down the rabbit hole”. He said QR codes led to Smackdown on September 23 and the show was the most-watched edition since March 2020. Levesque said Bray Wyatt’s return to Extreme Rules led to a 30% increase in the event and made it the most watched. Extreme rules in the story. He also talked about how it generated viewers for Raw and moved merchandise. Levesque said they would do more like this and said that WWE really is 24/7 programming.
-Levesque spoke about development and the upcoming campus rush. Levesque said they expect to see more Division 1 athletes entering their development system over the next year.
-Levesque also talked about the company working with celebrities in hopes of attracting new fans. He pointed out Logan Paul challenging Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel. He said that Reigns would undoubtedly have the Bloodline with him, and wondered if it would cause Jake Paul to appear in his brother’s corner. Levesque also mentioned WarGames at Survivor Series, and said comically that no one was more excited than Frank Riddick.
-Riddick read the financial presentation available on the company’s website. Riddick noted that the Special Committee’s investigation into Vince McMahon is now complete. He said Vince agreed to pay the cost of the investigation which is not covered by insurance.
-Riddick said he has a short-term extension with Hulu for Raw and Smackdown reruns. He said the goal is for these rights to be available alongside their TV rights deal.
-They opened the phone lines for calls.
-A caller asked if it was possible to improve the cost structure. Riddick talked about investing in content creation. He said they see opportunities to manage and control costs.
-Lévesque was asked what the core of his content philosophy is and how he plans to manage this on a one-year cycle. Levesque said they were looking further ahead than they ever have before. He said he was already working with the team to collaborate on what WrestleMania will look like next year, followed by spring through summer.
-Levesque said they were successful without Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton. He said they are important stars who he thinks will move the needle. He said they were focusing on character development. He said there were returning stars and there would be NXT stars who had never been seen on the main roster before. He talked about character development and how cool things were. He said some of the original ideas will work and some won’t. He pointed to the white rabbit. He said he’s not afraid to fail with these things and when something goes wrong he wants to understand why.
– Khan was asked what makes him so positive about good media deals. He touted the three Rs – ratings, relevance and revenue. He said he thought the company was firing at cylinders in every area. He was also asked about live events and said they had an offer they liked.
-Levesque was asked about NXT Europe and the European expansion schedule. Levesque said the desire with NXT UK was to replicate what they were doing in the United States. He said COVID had hit and they had to rethink it. He said they got to a place where they were ready to go again, but it’s hard to rebrand something that’s still going on, so they shut it down. He said he would replicate the American version of NXT with a level of recruiting top athletes. Levesque said they will partner with people and then bring in athletes who will be trained and developed. He talked about turning it into a power system for WWE. Levesque said Europe is an interesting hub for places like India. He said it was difficult for them to recruit from India and bring these athletes to the United States, when they can bring these athletes to Europe much faster. He said that once Europe is established, they hope to diversify into other markets.
-Levesque was asked about a timeline for bringing rookies into the WWE Performance Center and getting them to the main roster. Levesque said top athletes are used to being trained at a different level. He said there was about a six month time limit and three or four months later. He said there were talents on NXT television who had only been in the system for six to eight months. He said the future is incredibly bright on this front.
-A caller asked about the media rights agreement in Canada, with that agreement expiring in 2024. He praised their current partner and said they were “pretty optimistic” about what the future may hold in Canada.
– Khan was asked if he thought linear packaging and streaming with a few partners was the right way to go or if they could consider separate deals for broadcast only and streaming only. Khan said he thinks weeknights are important and the way things ended up with Raw on cable and streaming PLEs worked perfectly. He said they were happy with all three platforms. He said there will be fewer basic cable networks, but much of the content has been picked up by streamers. He acknowledged the possibility of networks taking down prime time.
-Khan was also asked about ‘second to air’ rights. He confided this to Riddick, who said they felt the shorter-term deal was better for them. He said that really says nothing about rights negotiations in 2023.
-The last caller asked to classify markets outside of the United States. Khan said they felt the live events and rights deals were one. He talked more about Canada and the Labor Day weekend show in Cardiff and how it gets their potential partners to come and see the product. He also explained how it allows shows to air during prime time. They ended the call at this point.
Powell’s point of view: An interesting conference call with so much credit given to creative enhancements. It’s deserving and also strategic in that it sends a good message to anyone in the financial world who might still believe that WWE will take a big hit without Vince McMahon leading that side of things. The executives continue to be very confident about their upcoming negotiations on television rights in the United States.