Vince McMahon and WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios hosted a conference call with investors on Thursday morning to discuss the company's second quarter earnings for 2012. I was on the call on behalf of WrestlingNewsWorld.com, below are the highlights:
Michael Weiz, from investor relations, opened the call by reading a prepared statement.
Vince McMahon said the company was "essentially flat" for the quarter which was "nothing to write home about." McMahon put over the increase in pay-per-view buy rates from the prior quarter, which are up 17%. He said they've had a decrease in consumer products, which he blamed in part, due to the cancelation of the WWE All-Stars 2 video game (which was released in the same quarter last year). McMahon said live event attendance and television ratings were also essentially flat. He quickly reiterated the success of Raw 1000 and the expansion of the show to three hours. McMahon said the third hour would present them with a new audience.
McMahon laughed when he mentioned the re-mastery of "No Holds Barred" starring Hulk Hogan and said it has done very well.
Vince said the new WWE Main Event show on Ion television the company will begin producing in October will give them an audience they do not currently have (click here for more details).
He put over the company's programming on YouTube and massive social media numbers. McMahon also discussed their backing of Tout. He said the company ran shows in Russia and had an "OK" debut in Brazil. Regarding the WWE Network, Vince said he hoped by the next conference call (to discuss third quarter 2012 earnings) they would be making an announcement regarding distribution but gave no specifics.
McMahon handed the call over to George Barrios who went over financials. Barrios talked about the company going from 4 hours of original programming each week to 6 hours each week with the expansion of Raw and the new one-hour of WWE Main Event (he didn't factor in WWE Superstars or WWE NXT). He said that the Tout app was downloaded over 30,000 times after the airing of WWE Raw.
Barrios noted the re-mastery of the 1989 WWE movie "No Holds Barred" starring Hulk Hogan, which cost less than $100,000, is expected to make $300,000. He said the company is pleased with DVD sales of the film. Barrios followed by going over the new WWE Studios films under the new strategy. It was noted the self-financed film "Barricade" will be released in September.
Barrios said they feel it's not in the best interests of the company's shareholders to discuss specifics of the WWE Network. He reiterated WWE is currently in negotiations with top cable and satellite carriers.
After Barrios continued to go on and on, the call went to a Q&A with investors:
The range of options for the format of the WWE Network: George Barrios reiterated there are three models still being considered for the WWE Network which include broad/basic distribution, a pay TV format and a third "over-the-top" format. He said WWE continues to have discussions internally and externally and that's all they can say at this point.
What drove the increase in PPV revenue: George Barrios noted that WWE has seen a 27% to 34% buy increase over the past year in High Definition pay-per-view buys, which carry a $10 up charge.
Why the decrease in live event attendance domestically?: Barrios blamed it on Smackdown being "a little bit" behind from where the company would like it to be. He said they've tried to close the gap with the production value of the live event shows compared to television and pay-per-view production.
What is WWE's percentage in Tout?: The company has not disclosed how much of the company they own of the company but their investment amount was $5,000,000.
Update on WWE Superstars & WWE NXT: Barrios talked about Superstars and NXT still being produced and distributed internationally. He detailed the revamp of NXT and put over the partnership with Full Sail University. Barrios said the shows are currently not licensed in the United States but that may change going forward.
What does the programming structure look like for the WWE Network. We know about "Legends House" but don't know about anything else and that's part of the reason people are so concerned about the spend: George Barrios said there will be some element of live programming and put over the 30,000 hours of digitized programming in their tape library. He pointed towards the battles between Vince McMahon and Ted Turner and said they've developed a "compelling show" called "Monday Night Wars."
The shareholder said the company can do better about helping investors understand what the company is doing with the WWE Network. He explained how frustrating it is watching the stock price, not knowing about what is happening with the new venture and said they need to say more. Note from Richard: I want to emphasize the investor was very stern with the lack of transparency regarding the WWE Network. He made it clear he was very frustrated and Vince McMahon said little to reassure him.
Fully expecting to Vince McMahon to fire back, he meekly said they hoped to have an announcement for the WWE Network for the next conference call.
Regarding the programming (specifically mentioning Raw and some of the pay-per-views) getting edgier: Vince said it is an evolvement, the writing of the shows has been considerably better and there is no subject matter they cannot touch on these days but they do it in a more-sophisticated PG manner. Vince put over the company's commitment to TV-PG and talked about the opportunities it has opened up for them. When the investor pressed that the company has done a "little better on the P side rather than the G side," he was able to get McMahon to admit the company went too far at one point with their PG commitment.