Unlike Rey Mysterio when he faced Seth Rollins last year, WWE President Nick Khan doesn’t believe that flagship shows RAW and Smackdown have lost eyeballs. Rather, as he explained on Thursday’s fourth-quarter investor call, it’s that the eyeballs have simply shifted to other platforms.
“If you look at our Facebook numbers, which are significantly up the last six months or so, including the revenue against those numbers,” he said, “we think the eyeballs are there.” Noting that the US election coverage and pandemic coverage may have taken focus from viewers, “We believe with a continued great in-ring product that the eyeballs are continuing to grow and will result in more linear eyeballs. We feel good about our position and we think our network partners do as well.”
While the network ratings were discussed, most of the investor presentation focused on the company’s year-end financials, the company’s brand strategy, and the expected impact of the company’s recently-announced deal with NBC Universal that gives its Peacock streaming service exclusive broadcast rights to the WWE Network in the United States. The deal, it was said, ““enables WWE to reach a larger audience and realize a greater economic return as compared to a stand-alone subscription service.”
it will allow the company to partner with the peacock to grow the WWE brand even larger and prestigious than ever before.
Described by Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon as a “trusted long-term partner,” NBCU will help WWE by giving them access to a “best-in-class team for sales, marketing, and promotion,” and elevate the perception of their marquee events to even higher levels.
“Imagine – every three years is the Superbowl, every two years is the Olympics, and every year is WrestleMania,” she said about the possible marketing positioning. The possibility of additional cross-promotion with NBCU or WWE’s other network partner Fox, also noted as having growth opportunity.
“There be more piggy-backing,” predicted company President Nick Khan, citing two examples where the company was able to generate interest from these arrangements.
“(During a football game), we announced the next three WrestleMania locations. Just that announcement on a linear platform went viral – during a football game. The Royal Rumble pre-show that aired on Fox drew over a million viewers. There will be more of that (kind of thing).”
McMahon also highlighted other brand success stories over the past year, including celebrity tie-ins like: Matthew McConaughey’s appearance in the Thunderdome, footage of which was used in his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show this past week; Sasha Banks’ role on The Mandalorian; and the appearance by singer Bad Bunny on the Royal Rumble and RAW this past week.
The latter – which was part of a concerted effort to raise product awareness among the LatinX demographic – resulted in record sales of co-branded WWE/Bad Bunny merchandise on WWE’s online store and over 170 million social media impressions.
Other notable items from the call:
- While this year’s WrestleMania will have a limited audience with COVID-related safety protocols being used, the company is not expecting any other shows will have live audiences until mid-2021 at the earliest.
- During the year, the company introduced 2,000 new products on WWEShop, with its new line of championship titles being a particular success. A deal has been made with a major sports league to sell team-branded championship belts, and they are looking to expand those to other leagues as well.