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Thomas Fenton Reports:
With the most recent WWE investors call leaving more questions than actual answers yesterday, there is some light I'm able to shed on this.
There were multiple reasons why in which Michelle Wilson and George Barrios parted ways with WWE and were let go. One of the biggest reasons was long term gains vs short term corrections. Wilson and Barrios were very against the overspend on talent. When I say overspend it is based on their market analysis of the talent, not my personal opinion. The talent that was expiring, or will be expiring, Vince McMahon does not want to lose, almost to a fault. Officials would deny it outwardly but there is fear from Vince and those close about losing "his" talent to AEW. We have seen this throughout the last year with stars like AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and most recently Edge that have signed new WWE contracts. This is not the only talent as others such as Nakamura, Finn Balor, Gallows, Anderson, Miz, Usos, Kalisto, Mike and Maria Kanellis, The Miz, The New Day, John Morrison, and many others have signed new deals that were significantly higher than their previous contracts. Several legends have signed new deals with the company as well. This is in addition to all the free-agents that WWE has signed in the last 18 months, and continue to do so.
The question isn't if these talents deserve the money to put their bodies on the line night in and night out. The disagreement happened when metrics were presented in regards to certain talent and previous management felt that they should just let some wrestlers walk and cut some cost from the talent side of things. However, this was not the only reason that WWE moved in a different direction, as was presented on the conference call on Thursday. The other, and possibly more pressing issue, was the direction of the WWE Network. Previous management was focused on keeping everything inhouse and continuing the efforts of the tiered network concept that was already supposed to be in full play. However, it was not acted upon quickly enough and now that changes have been made internally, it's why we're hearing more and more about tiered Network options.
The biggest news here is Vince McMahon is shopping WWE content. It was discussed several times on the call that WWE has had talks with other OTT networks that are looking for content. One of the biggest tells in this whole situation is the fact that Q1 projections are lower than hoped. Quarter 1 should easily be WWE's biggest financial quarter because it goes from the Royal Rumble into WrestleMania. Vince later in the call mention that a deal could be announced as early as the end of Q1, however, it seems to be much closer than that. The big question is what are they selling and what may or may not move. WWE, at the time of writing, has concerned selling some library rights to NBC Universal with the assumption it would be old Monday Night Raws on NBC's Peacock streaming service that will be launching later this year.
The other items they have been shopping are their big 4 PPV's, which would once again be pay per views on another streaming service. Vince is looking to maximize profit now, while rights deals are very high, and not only network television but the OTT streaming services are also looking to add content. The names Dazn, ESPN Plus, and other streaming services were discussed. One of the other ideas is to shop WrestleMania alone and shop 4 other shows (1 per quarter) to another OTT streaming service. It seems that Vince would like companies to bid on WWE pay per views like other companies bid on things like the Superbowl and the Olympics. The WWE will continue forward no matter what with the 3 tiers they've laid out. The tiers would be a free model, normal model, and finally a premium tier that would include all of the big shows that are not shopped out to another company. Another telling item on the financial reports is the increased revenue projections for NXT. This could be due to their contract with NBC Universal which WWE incorporates into other line items so it is hard to get a definitive answer on. However, it could also mean that revenue projections increased because they'll start to tape at larger venues and ticket sales play into this. It is unknown at this time what WWE's plans are for NXT's live audience after their dates with Full Sail end at the end of Q1. It's also entirely possible they renegotiate their contract with Full Sail, but it is interesting timing with the expiring of their contract there and the projected increased revenue during that same time.