Money, money, money, money, money. Those words make up the chorus of the theme song for WWE Hall of Famer Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase. But they might also be the mantra used by WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan and Chief Financial Officer Kristina Salen, both of whom touted the company’s financial success at its third quarter investor call on Thursday afternoon.
Buoyed by better-than-expected profits of $255.8 Million (all figures USD) in the quarter ended September 30th, resulting from higher ticket sales and in-venue merchandise sales resulting from WWE’s return to live events, Khan and Salen announced an increased in expectations for the full year’s income. While they previously predicted adjusted operating income in the range of $270-$305MM, on the call, they cited a revised range of $305 to $315MM.
The other senior executives who participated on the call – CEO Vince McMahon and Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon – were also bullish on the company’s financial strengths, noting that WWE’s success is driven by live events and now that they are back on a touring schedule, the company can continue to thrive.
They cited this year’s SummerSlam as an example, outlining that this year’s event was the most watched SummerSlam in history, selling out the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, and setting records in terms of sponsorship revenue, and merchandise sales (up 155% from the 2019 edition, which was the last one to take place in front of a live audience).
The focus on more big live events (including large international events (i.e. Saudi Arabia)) is evident in the company’s new strategy with respect to pay-per-views, and Khan reinforced their new strategic approach.
“We are making adjustments that we believe will enhance results,” he said.
Part of that was their targeting key cities and dates to hold an unprecedented four PPVs in stadium venues in 2022. In outlining their schedule, Khan provided some of the rationale behind their choices.
The change to the Royal Rumble to an earlier week in January and on a Saturday night instead of the traditional Sunday was because “there is no real competitive programming on the sports calendar (that night)” and because “we wanted to support our NBCU partners and not (put the event on) against the Winter Olympics.”
The Money in the Bank PPV – which Khan noted is now among the “Big 5” events – will be held on July 4th weekend in Las Vegas because “over 400,000 people are expected to travel to Las Vegas that weekend. “ Similarly, taking SummerSlam to Nashville in early August is to capitalize on that city becoming one of the major US tourist cities.
“Have you been to Nashville on a Saturday in the summer? It’s booming,” he said.
He also teased that the strategy may include more integration with sports and other mainstream stars, hinting that NBA player Trey Young may be involved in the PPV event scheduled for Atlanta on the night of January 1st, and that his recent appearance on RAW could merely have been a precursor of things to come.
Indeed, Stephanie McMahon noted that WWE’s unique model – “… (the) exciting action of a live game, but scripted like a great movie…” allows them to “write in integrations… in a fun way,” using the recent appearances of zombies at this year’s Wrestlemania: Backlash as an example.
During the Q&A portion of the call, during which they fielded questions from the major investment firms, the discussion was more around the company’s projections. One question about the recent turnover in the company’s mid- to upper-level management staff wasn’t quite dismissed, but Khan didn’t provide much detail in terms of the decisions, other than to say that they were made solely with the intention of maximizing shareholder value.
“We want the most efficient business model possible that produces the best content possible. Over the last year and change, we’ve collectively looked at it to make sure the right eyes and the right brains are working on it.”
One other question related to the recent changes made to the NXT brand and TV show. Khan noted that the drastic changes were made with full intent and the results are in-line with expectations.
“We think it’s starting the way we wanted it to start,” he replied. “We wanted a younger, fresher in-ring approach,” noting that recruiting for the brand will focus on “… young athletes who may not be right now in the quote-unquote wrestling space. That will continue.”