WWE Investor Conference Call Highlights – Investor Scolds The Company Over Lack Of Transparency Regarding The WWE Network, Exec Says Smackdown Brand Is Behind Where They Want It To Be, Vince McMahon Admits They Took TV-PG Too Far

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.

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  • Kleck

    Well the first step in recovery is acceptance.

  • Jeff

    hope this means WWE will wake up and turn it up a notch, take it back to the good ol days atleast a little bit….but i dont get how a PG commitment has anything to do with the booking of the divas…oohh it doesnt so BOOK THE DIVAS….strategically

  • Pizzaman

    Bring back the attitude era !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Deviln

      the attitude era is dead! WWE can still be pg and edgy at the same time as it helped WCW beat the then WWF for 84 weeks straight and almost put vinnie mac out of business!

    • Anand

      I cant understand why people want the attitude era back? I agree that it was the most entertaining time period in wrestling history but do we really want it back?

      What made attitude era tick was Austin, Rock, HHH, Mic Foley and a bunch of other top class athletes who could cut a god damn amazing promo and back it up with an even amazing bout in the ring. Do we have people like that now? We do have a lot of top notch talents in WWE now but can we really compare them with Austin or Mic Foley??

      Ok, lets say WWE brings back Not to belittle the guys that are active now will be asked to portray characters similar to what we have seen in the Attitude era and the IWC is going to all hyped up and upset that guys are trying to copy legends and dish out a lot of dirt on them… Are you ok if Cena plays the heel Rock and Orton plays the bad guy + face Austin? Can you see Orton driving a beer truck or Cena hitting the peoples elbow? I am sure your answer would be a No and so is mine…

      • Eddie

        I didn’t get you, why would they wanna “copy” the legends?
        when people say that they want attitude era back, that does not mean that they wanna see people it…. They want that attitude to come back into the programming. And yes, we do have superstars today that are capable of cutting good promos. Imagine John cena’s character going back to what it was during his first wwe title reign, randy Orton becoming the viper that he was in 2009, punk being allowed to do his thing, ziggler becoming hardcore…. These are a few things that can do the trick for these guys.
        “I also read in a comment above that being pg with a bit of an edge helped wcw beat wwf in the ratings and then almost ran it out of business”…. But as far as i remember, didn’t the attitude era help the wwf in putting an end to wcw??

        The wwe is forgetting the fact that their 9 year old audience is into wwe because they saw their parents, elder brothers and sisters watching it. And when these 9 year Olds grow old, wwe is gonna loose their audience if they don’t turn the pg down a few notches…..

    • Anand

      Attitude Era is history and there is no point in crying asking for it to be back. Its not gonna happen. WWE creative needs to think of ways to bring in edgy programming and interesting storylines to captivate the audience. Attitude Era isnt the only thing to go to. We can still give entertaining shows by being PG.

      Moreover, during the Attitude Ear there were no shareholders and no Linda McMahon in politics so the creative was free to do whatever they want. Now, the story is different. People are blaming Linda for the ***** storylines during the Attitude Era almost two decades ago, right now and trying to malign her senate campaign. A public company cannot just involve in anything they want. Shareholder acceptance if important. As audience you may want non-PG programming but shareholders may prefer the non-PG product because it is more family friendly and WWE has no choice but to comply…

      So, I practically think there is no way the Attitude Era is gonna be back…

  • Jack

    Nice recap, thanks

    • Richard Gray

      Thanks Jack!

  • LeBron James

    From what I can tell, everything has gone down hill sense going PG, so my question is, why keep it PG? You've clearly had great success with edgier television, so why fix what's not broken? Vince seems out of touch with what people like now a days. It's not looking good for the WWE. They have improved in many ways, but it seems with ever step forward they make, they take to steps back.

    • XKonn247

      Yea it must be awful have 4,000,000 viewers each week in America alone.

    • Ken

      Vince has lost his mind, I think. He's going senile, or he's going mad.
      Actually, I've just had a thought… you know Spartacus: Blood and Sand…
      The McMahons are Batiatus. They're the top fight promoter, but have political dreams beyond their station and capability, and they'll do anything to achieve those dreams even at the cost of their own livelihood and wellbeing. The House of Batiatus fell as a result of Batiatus' foolishness, and so too will the House of McMahon fall as a result of theirs.
      Talk about analogies…

      • Kai

        If only Linda McMahon was as good looking as Lucy lawless ey?! I see your point though, good example!

    • WNW FAN

      I know some of the PG went to far but everyone seems to forget about the WWF in the 80's and early 90's before the A Era. It also was PG and fans ate it up.

      Fans got spoiled on the A Era. Me personally yes some of the A Era was entertaining. But just as some fans find the 'PG Era' awful, I find most of the A Era was awful. On top of that some say that "the PG Era insults our intelligence as fans". Well boys and girls…I don't know about you but giving birth to a hand, a match with Vince versus God, and a live sex celebration just to name a few, really insults not only my intelligence as a fan but also as a human being. I don't care the reasons behind the PG change but I think cleaning up your product to suit everyone of all ages is not only smart but very, very, classy. Just my opinion gang.

  • havoc525

    Nitro was good, and had interesting stories in PG, it IS possible.

  • JOHN

    With the tape libraries that the WWE has in JUST WWE/WWF, WCW, and ECW they SHOULD have ALOT of material to use even if it is just placing past replays in certain time or day slots. For example, if they started playing WCWs' monday night raw from episode 1 till the tragic end thats ALOT of showtimes. They could even do it on a 1 episode a week basis or what not and it would work seeing as how people still like seeing the wrestlers that they grew up with…

  • Michael

    Its wrestling the goal to destroy the other one so bad that you get a three count how is that pg of itself

    • Eddie

      A very strange thing about the 3 count…

      Its been happening for a long time now… Whenever cena gets pinned, he rolls out of the ring, or rolls away instantly after the three count is over…..
      How does he expect any one to believe that he didn’t have the energy to move a shoulder while he was being pinned when he moves his entire body just one second after the pin….
      And it’s not just him, many other guys do it too…

    • Eddie

      Its been happening*

  • Sarcastic Smark 2.0

    Oh, Vince said the company was "essentially flat" for the quarter but still had $5,000,000 to invest in Tout? Heh, I guess this is another one of those things that is "good for business"

  • Kevin

    We don't need the WWE to "bring back the Attitude Era". We need them to come up with a new Attitude Era. What made the yesterday Attitude Era was, in fact, the talent: Rock, Stone Cold, Mick, APA, Undertaker, etc, etc, etc. Those guys are all but totally finished. We have new talent now, each bringing something different to the table. Use that to create a new Attitude Era, where edgy doesn't mean profane or vulgar. What we have now is borderline lackadaisical. Crank it up a notch, and watch the fire burn!