WWE held a conference call with investors on Thursday morning to discuss their 2015 second quarter earnings. Vince McMahon and CFO George Barrios hosted the call and answered questions. I was on the call on behalf of WrestlingNewsWorld.com and filed the following recap:
Michael Weitz opened the call by reading a prepared statement. He handed the call over to Vince McMahon.
Vince got on the call and said they delivered strong earnings growth that reflects their strategy. He put over the numbers, were not going to specifically recap. You can read about them at this link. Vince talked about the number of WWE Network subscribers that we recapped earlier. He went over new content coming to the Network we recapped here. He compared one of the shows to what HBO does with their NFL show "Hard Knocks." He called their animated series their version of South Park. Vince put over the number of people watching WWE each week in the United States and talked about surpassing half a billion social media followers. Vince handed the call over to George Barrios.
Barrios crunched the numbers like only he can. Again, I'm not going to go word for word here, it's best to review the numbers yourself at this link. He noted the July 4, 2015 "Beast in the East" WWE Network special was the most watched program in the network's history, excluding pay-per-views. WWE will introduce a 3-month WWE Network subscription card at retail, providing customers the ability to subscribe without a credit card. Barrios said they will not give a current WWE Network subscriber count on this call. Only numbers included in today's release.
The call was then opened for a question and answer session.
Barrios was asked about the cost of the new 180 hours of new original programming. Barrios said past numbers were still accurate and broke down the expenditures. Barrios was asked about international expansion, he wants to stay out of specifics but they have knocked off in 4 of 9 countries they wanted to launch. As far as mobile offerings, they continue to look at things but like the simplicity of the offering they have.
A caller asked about the churn post-Wrestlemania, Barrios didn't want to talk about month to month churns. Post-Wrestlemania was one of the higher level of churns they have had. It's part of their legacy pay-per-view model, which is event driven.
Barrios said there is still a relatively low "awareness" level about the WWE Network, which they view as an opportunity. And that includes low awareness from the passionate segment of their fanbase.
Asked about annual growth for the WWE Network in 2016 and beyond, Barrios said they'll go into their planning cycle for next year in the fall. Barrios said they are still comfortable for their "steady state" ranges for the WWE Network in 2015.
A caller wants to know about YouTube versus Facebook and the WWE Network revenue being more than pay-per-view. Specifically, the caller wants to know if WWE is making as much money with the 1.2M subscribers as they would have been if they would have stayed in pay-per-view. Barrios said in 2015 they've spent about $120M, which is what they spent in 2014. Moving forward, 2016 and beyond, they're still thinking about but at 1.2M subscribers Barrios said they are generating the net range of $40M, so yes, they are making as much money as they would by still being in pay-per-view. Barrios talked about YouTube and discussed the Facebook experiment they're participating in.
Vince McMahon talked vaguely about new WWE Network original programming and about how they aren't supplying programming for "all four quadrants" of their audience. Vince said they need to develop programming for all those quadrants.
George Barrios refused to talk about planning or offer guidance for 2016. They will being planning for 2016 in the fall and discuss it on a later call.
A caller asked about initial expectations are for SummerSlam featuring The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar and if they plan to do more shows like "Beast of the East." Barrios said they're real excited and SummerSlam is starting to feel more like Wrestlemania in August. Vince said they feel it's so strong they had to make it four hours. Barrios said "Beast in the East" was a huge success and talked about NXT resonating as its own brand and called it a home run.
Barrios talked about NXT having a different feel to it with its own unique fanbase. He put over Triple H's work with it and his vision. They obviously plan to do more with it.
A caller asked about Hulk Hogan but didn't mention him by name and about talent development. Vince said they feel very strong where they are with the development of their NXT stars, addressing the second part of this caller's question. He also put over the work of Triple H. Vince said Hogan is no longer with WWE and his departure has no material effect on WWE and their emphasis is on performers that can actually compete in the ring.
After that, the call concluded.