With the special investigation of former Chairman Vince McMahon’s activities concluded, Wednesday afternoon’s WWE third-quarter investor call was all about looking forward. Both financially – building on the momentum from another quarter with significant revenues and profits – as well as creatively, under the direction of the company’s new leadership, including recently-promoted Chief Content Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
“Our storytelling is resonating across all of our audiences,” Levesque said during his portion of the investor presentation. “That is leading to strong viewership numbers across all platforms.”
Levesque credited a multi-platform approach to boosting numbers, and illustrated his point by citing the recent “White Rabbit Program” that culminated in the return of Bray Wyatt to the WWE after a campaign that included three vehicles: linear programming, digital content, and live events.
“We started in live events (playing White Rabbit content) with no explanation. That was followed by displays of QR codes on RAW and Smackdown, leading to more clues like interactive games and puzzles and cryptic messages. The buzz and excitement continued to increase. Those clues pointed to the September 23rd (episode of) Smackdown, which became the most-watched episode of Smackdown since March 2020. And it all culminated at Extreme Rules (which became) the most-watched Extreme Rules in history. The following RAW two days later was up 14% week over week.”
He also noted that the campaign was a significant winner in merchandise sales, as Bray Wyatt merchandise outsold everything else from the company’s merchandising partner Fanatix’ platform – not just WWE-related, but for all brands that deal with Fanatix.
“We used a multi-media approach to increase engagement, excitement, and revenue,” he summed up. The success of this initial engagement makes it likely that the company will explore similar campaigns in the future.
It’s clear that with HHH at the creative helm, the company is looking at new and interesting ways to strengthen its roster and freshen up its story-telling. Whether it be through new recruitment and developmental initiatives – like the company’s Campus Rush and Next In Line programs that target collegiate athletes in hopes to turn them into future WWE superstars – or the use of celebrity involvement to try to engage new fans.
On the latter, Levesque may have even dropped some hints – spoilers, if you will – about where they may be going with celebrity influencer Logan Paul, who faces Roman Reigns for the Undisputed Universal Championship at Crown Jewel.
“Roman will likely have the whole Bloodline in his corner,” Levesque teased. “Will Logan’s brother, Jake Paul – fresh off his win over Anderson Silva – be there to be in his corner and even the odds?”
He also hinted that the feud may continue to Survivor Series: War Games, the company’s next Premium Live Event.
“It’s (all about) keeping things fresh,” he said during the Q&A portion of the call, in response to how he thinks the future of creative will bolster future financial performance. “Trying outside the box things. The White Rabbit was really out of the box. Some (of those things) are going to work, some are not. And I’m not afraid of the losses. When things don’t work… we figure out why they didn’t. And the next one will.”
Beyond the re-inspired creative direction of the company, co-CEO’s Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan both talked about the financial successes. McMahon noted that viewership of the company’s signature RAW and Smackdown shows is up from the same time period last year, as is the viewership of Premium Live Events on Peacock.
They both touted the success of the recent Clash at the Castle event, which became the most-viewed international event in company history, and grossed over $8 Million in live ticket sales. It was noted that Europe is a very important market for the company, and Levesque noted that the plans to transition the NXT-UK developmental program to NXT Europe reflects that.
Canada was also brought up on the call, and it was noted that the announcement that the Elimination Chamber event, which takes place in Montreal in February, is an example of a broader strategic approach in marketing its linear TV deals for RAW and Smackdown as contracts are set to expire and be renegotiated soon.
Noting that their deals with Rogers to air RAW and Smackdown are coming to an end in 2024, Khan said that while “we love our relationship with our incumbent partner,” he does see a plethora of opportunities for negotiating streaming and linear TV deals given the strength of the Canadian market. Bringing a Premium Live Event to Montreal after 14 years helps the company demonstrate its appeal to potential buyers.
“That’s all tied in. Our existing partners and potential buyers can come (to those live events) and see our programming,” Khan said. “When (they) see our shows live, that’s an incredibly easy sell.”
Other Notes from the call:
- Revenue for the quarter was $305 Million (all figures USD) and Adjusted Operating Income before Depreciation and Amortization was $91 Million, increases of 19% and 17%, respectively, year-over-year.
- Operating income for the quarter was $59 Million, which was a decrease year-over-year. This was attributed to $18 Million in costs related to the aforementioned special investigation. It was noted in the financial statements that the investigation results may result in further costs in the future as the company works to implement the committee’s recommendations. Though, it was noted that Vince McMahon will be repaying the company for reasonable costs associated with the investigation that aren’t covered by insurance.
- Expect more offerings at the WWEShop before the holidays. It was announced that Fanatix plans to increase the number of WWE products by 25% in the coming weeks.
- Ticket sales for the 2023 Royal Rumble have already outsold the second-highest Rumble of all time and the expected gross gate revenue should be the highest for that event ever.
- Nearly 100,000 tickets have already been sold for next year’s WrestleMania 39. Khan noted that this is despite the fact that not one match or one person has been announced yet.
- WWE Studios is currently working on a TV show with Netflix that will be about an aspiring luchadore wrestler. The company is also developing a show for the Hulu network which will focus on real-life couple Montez Ford and Bianca Belair.
- During her opening comments, McMahon mentioned looking at merger and acquisition opportunities, though she backtracked a little from that when asked to elaborate during the Q&A session, saying “It really is smaller, strategic opportunities that we’re looking at in the near-term. In the long term, it remains to be seen.”