Shots fired? Living in denial? Or simply basic business truth?
Depending on who you ask – or how you want to fantasy book – the comments made about all Elite Wrestling by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon during the company’s second quarter investors’ call on Thursday afternoon could be any of the above.
“I don’t see (AEW) as competition in the way I would consider WCW back in the day. Not anywhere near close to that,” McMahon answered to the question of whether AEW’s recent roster investments and viewership increases could poise the relatively young company as a competitor similar to WCW back during the Monday Night Wars.
“Ted Turner was coming after us with all of Time-Warner’s assets. That was a different situation.”
“AEW is where they are,” McMahon said. “I really don’t know what their plans are, I only know what our plans are.”
Company President Nick Khan and Chief Revenue Officer echoed McMahon’s sentiments.
“It’s sort of like a horse race where the horse has blinders on,” he said. “We’re looking straight ahead at our lane and making sure that we stay in the front of the pack.”
Khan added that he and the company’s senior executive team don’t look at individual companies, or even wrestling companies as threats on an individual level. Rather, their competition is anything that competes for the viewership or other attention by fans.
“We don’t look at any organization as competition, but we see everything as competition in terms of eyeballs. Sleep is our competition.”
Beyond that exchange, the call was limited to the financial and operating results of the second fiscal quarter. McMahon, Khan, CEO Kristina Salen, and Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon ran down the financial highlights of the quarter ending June 30th, provided some updates on ongoing initiatives, and largely celebrated the return to live event touring.
Both McMahon and Khan discussed the focus on fan engagement that comes with the return to live events, and celebrated the positive attendance numbers, noting that many of their recent shows have broken company and/or venue attendance records.
The higher energy of in-person shows, as opposed to the Thunderdome, were also touted as contributing to higher ratings for TV and Peacock/WWE Network events, a trend that they hope to see continue throughout the third and fourth quarters and beyond.
It was announced that the company will unveil its full touring schedule for 2021 shortly, which will include at least one large international event, subject to any COVID-related restrictions.
In addition, the company celebrated its expansion of both scripted and non-scripted mainstream content, including the successful A&E Biography and Most Wanted Treasures series, and the recently-announced miniseries The United States vs. Vince McMahon, and said that more such projects can be expected in the future.