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UPDATE ON SHANE MCMAHON'S ROLE WITHIN WWE, GEORGE BARRIOS COMMENTS ON POTENTIAL TIERED WWE NETWORK CHANGES, VINCE MCMAHON SAYS FOUR TALENTS WILL BE RETURNING IN NEXT MONTH: WWE 2016 FIRST QUARTER EARNINGS CALL COVERAGE

By Mike Johnson on 2016-05-10 11:09:00

Welcome to PWInsider.com's coverage of WWE's 2016 First Quarter Earnings conference call.

Michael Weiss welcomed everyone to the call and introduced Vince McMahon and George Barios.  He noted they released their earnings this morning.

Vince said they had a 13% revenue increase from this time last year.  He praised the attendance record for Wrestlemania III being broken "finally" and noted that almost all the 101,000 plus tickets for Wrestlemania 32 sold out almost immediately.  Subscribers watched 22 million hours of content during Wrestlemania week, where they released 19 hours of original content.

He plugged the new WWE Network series, including Swerved Season  2 and Holy Foley.  He pushed the debut of Total Bellas and noted they were up 34% on social media.  There were

They've had a lot of injuries and they made "some pretty good chicken salad out of that."  He said in the next 30 days, they have a number of talents coming back.  He said there were 17 injuries but Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins would return.  They introduced 13 new talents and over the next 30 days, they will have more talent on the roster than they've ever had before.

George Barrios began recapping the financial material that WWE released this morning.

Licensing revenue was up due to a higher royalty rate from the videogame license.

They currently have $88 million in cash and short-term investments.

They will bring back Superstar Game Night and Superstar Ink for new seasons on Youtube.

The WWE Network subscribers - they predict 1.5 million for the next quarter.

They are going to spotlight their global trends more going forward to give

They began the Q&A portion of the call:

They were asked about how they plan to market internationally going forward and how the opportunity is vs. domestic.  Barrios said they have been marketing internationally for the Network via social and media platforms as well as their regular programming.  There have been no material shift in how they market.  They always try different methods but no major changes.    When they launched the Network, they felt 20-30% would be from international markets and they are within those projections.

They were also asked about the potential $12.99 tier for the WWE Network that would feature Raw and Smackdown the next day.  Barrios said they always survey the audience to test different ideas.  They have had 20-30 different versions and ideas they have floated out for feedback.  Barrios declined to comment how such a change might effect existing television partners.  Barrios said they've always had tiered content where there was paid material like PPV.  Now they have short form content via social media, their broadcast content via partners and direct to consumer content via the Network.

When asked about the Network numbers, George Barrios said they have only been doing this two years and they get better ideas on the churn and subscribers as they move forward.  He noted that they have 24 different assumptions now (as opposed to a few when they launched) as to how subscribers might interact with the Network and retain their sub or leave, based on what they stream, where they are from and other factors.

Vince was asked about talent injuries and why so many have been hurt lately and whether it was scripting being too "last minute."  Vince said they always have injuries but they are more visible now then before.  He said there was nothing more risky or different from before.  They manage concussions "very well" and he feels good about the Wellness Policy.  He said that it's something that occurs.  He said talents get hurt and they have to take time off, but it allows others to step up and being featured.  He said nothing is different, it's just something that is a little more visible and something people are more aware of.

Barrios was asked about the differences of getting fans to spend $60 for Wrestlemania vs. getting them to spend $10. They questioned if the subscribers have plateaued and whether there was a potential to go back to the old format.  Barrios said that even if the subs stayed where they are, they are in a better business then they were before and they would make double what they did with traditional PPV.

They made $2 million in revenue from traditional PPV in the first quarter of 2016.

Total Bellas was something additional for E! and WWE, as opposed to something included in the original deal.  This was a concept they came up with together.

Barrios was asked about the crackdown of sharing accounts.  He said there has been sharing but he doesn't believe it was material to their revenue.  He said it was just a tweak that they've made.

Barrios said they continue to invest in programming, technology and data.  They want to drive user consumption, and to understand and utilize the data they receive.  They will fine-tune some content for specific markets and georgraphy.

They were asked about Shane McMahon's role within the company and whether Shane might be involved there.  Vince said he is back as one of their talents and has done extremely well.  He praised the Undertaker match at Wrestlemania and the current storyline with Stephanie.  Barrios said that in terms of China, it is a market that has become even more important than it was over the last 12 months or so.  They made a signifigant investment in hiring a General Manager for the market.  The Network is not available there, it is the last market left for them and they are working to figure out the best way to roll out the Network there.

70-80% of social media comes from international markets.  When asked why the Network doesn't have the same retention, Barrios said it will take time plus there are factors such as local economies, their price point and bandwidth availabilibty.

They were asked about the expectations for the Tapout brand.  They have several investments, including Tapout.  They are excited about it and they feel it's a great fit for their audience and its a great brand.

They were asked about whether their guidance includes assumptions of greater interest and revenue with the return of injured stars.  Vince said it's always a mix but right now it seems stronger than usual with the stalwarts returning and the mix of new talents.

 

 

 

 

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