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By Mike Johnson on 2023-05-03 08:24:00

Welcome to's live, ongoing coverage of WWE's 2023 First Quarter Earnings Call.

They actually started on time!

Nick Khan, Paul Levesque and Frank Riddick were on the call. 

NO Vince McMahon.

Seth Zaslow welcomed everyone.

Nick Khan went over the Endeavor takeover of WWE, reviewing the 4/3 announcement that they would combine with UFC into a new company.    They are working intently to get the regulatory approval done and expect that to be done in the second quarter of 2023.

They are currently "engaged" in talks with NBCU and FOX for media rights renewals.

Khan touts the Wrestlemania 39 financials, noting it was the most financially profitable in WWE history with highest attendance and record gate revenue.  31% viewership increase.  Ovr 100% increase of sponsorship from the year before.  They broke the record for merchandise live at Mania, which had been previously set the year before.

Internationally, 35 million viewers watched Mania 39.

Royal Rumble 2023 was the most viewed Rumble in history.

Elimination Chamber 2023 generated a larger gate than any previous EC event.

Raw and Smackdown are seeking growth, bucking all TV industry trends.  

They had a 52% increase in North America attendance and higher ticket grosses.  Lots of sellouts and no signs of a slowdown.

Summerslam 2023 had more tickets sold at on sale day than any other non-Wrestlemania event in WWE history.  They are opening more sections at Ford Field.

Fanatics will be taking over in-venue sales of WWE merchandise as part of the new deal.

Khan touted Backlash this Saturday.  They received a 7 figure subsidary for the event.

They are in discussions with lots of different locales for similar deals.

They pushed the return of 5/27 Night of Champions in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and 7/1 Night of Champions in London, UK.

Their UK media rights events talks are continuing.

Khan said they are proud of their current business and are excited to grow the business in 2023.  They are excited about their long-term future and are focusing on their transaction with Endeavor.

Frank Riddick reviewed the Endeavor deal.  No new ground broken here but he talked up the positives.

Riddick reviewed the financial numbers from the earnings report.

They then opened the lines up for questions.

They were asked about an increase of costs into content creation.  Riddick said it was mainly centered around events that moved from Q1 to Q2 this year and the cost of the staging of those shows.  They don't see any substantial changes.

Nick Khan was asked about the Raw and Smackdown renewals.  They have had productive conversations with NBCU and FOX and they've seen the growth in the product.  On the timing, Khan said he can't estimate that yet but they remain "bullish" on both series.

They were asked if they are able during the exclusivity window to gauge interest outside of the NBCU and FOX circles.  Khan said he believes they are on high on a "lot of folks' list" but exclusive mean exclusive and they want to keep it clean during that exclusivity period.

They were asked if there was any extension talk on Peacock.  Khan said it's not up for a few years so they will see what happens there.

The biggest issue with getting an India deal was pausing all efforts due to COVID-19 and a big Sony merger there.  They hope to continue that when Sony finishes their merger with Z and feel very good about it.  They are keeping an eye on and watching all of the media rights deals there.

They were asked how WWE, as an organization, is prepared to be part in a new structure and how they are prepared for that and management transition.    Nick said they are all excited for everything that could and should happen.  Endeavor are not strangers to WWE and they give a full embrace to this.  There is no one from UFC or Endeavor who have any interest in changing how WWE runs their business or creative.  Endeavor doesn't do that with UFC.  They are experts at building a business internationally and they look forward to do that when the deal is excitement.

Paul Levesque said the excitement level is high and they look forward to doing what WWE does.  He's excited at the idea of Endeavor doing what they do to grow WWE internationally across the board.

They were asked about the Fanatics deal.  Frank Riddick said their sourcing and ability to create products with WWE will be a positive economics deal for them.  It was a minimum guarantee which was favorable for WWE.  He said they are very bullish on the deal.

They were asked to "unpack" the WWE corporate overhead and what the major facets will be with the merger.  He said that's the cost of finance, data analytics, the corporate office, etc.   The main expense they have in that realm are people and their compensation cost.  The cost of running a public company are not the biggest part of that.  There's insurance and the cost of the board and SEC filings and things like that.  They are very comfortable and are working on how to get those costs down when the deal is done.

Levesque was asked what was done to drive WWE viewership higher.  He said they are very excited about the performance of the company this year and the revenue they have driven.  He said it comes down to them having assembled the right team across the board - the talents that they continue to build through NIL, the PC and internationally recruiting.  Kevin Dunn's  production team are unlike anything else in the world.    They are focused on character development and you see that in the storylines that fans are engaged in, using The Bloodline and Sami Zayn as examples.  They are extending the overall look of the event horizon, so they know where they want to be a year ahead and tracking backward.  If something doesn't work, it's not a failure but a learning exercise.

They were asked when the exclusive windows for FOX and NBCU are.  Khan said they run about a month each.

They were asked about advertising and sponsorship growth.  Are they looking for all year deals, event to event and whether they have gotten any interest from UFC sponsors who have never worked with WWE before.  Khan said they have been trying to have more robust deals and enter into longer-team sponsorships.  They are waiting for the Endeavor deal to close before they go into discussions with existing UFC sponsors and partners.

They were asked about potential future acquisitions internationally.   They are focusing on existing business and closing the Endeavor deal.  Once that is done, they will look towards the future.

They were asked about the expenditures in the future to keep the ratings growing.  Khan said once they make new deals and money flows in, they want to be judicious with it.  There isn't anything they can articulate at this time.  They are optimistic about it all and are waiting to see how it shakes out.

They were asked about the status of WWE Network internationally including UK.  They are having discussions with buyers in the UK about programming including the Network.  They are running in London for MITB specifically so potential buyers can see the product in person themselves.  Wrestlemania in LA was done in part for the same reasons.

They were asked about the writer's strike and whether their programming on A&E can be effected.  Their writers are not members of the Guild but they are supportive of the Writers striking and hope they can find a solution in short order.  It would have no impact on their A&E series.

After the Wales event, they are trying to come to similar deals such as the one in Puerto Rico this weekend and are in discussions with cities in the United States and other countries.

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