WWE Q2 2020 Earnings Report Preview: Predictions & Suggested Questions

WWE’s Q2 earnings report is tomorrow, July 30, after the market closes for the day.

Expect documents to release around 4pm ET with a conference scheduled for 5pm.

The report will cover the period from April 1 to June 30. This will be the first quarter where the period took place entirely within WWE’s events being affected by COVID-19.

Since no traditional live events took place, expect revenues for that entire division and the venue merchandise segment to at or very close to zero. Lower costs associated with producing television out of the Performance Center in Orlando, however, makes those productions more profitable.

This will be the first quarter that includes revenues from WWE’s upgraded TV deal with Sony in India, which is now definitively the company’s #2 TV market, pulling ahead of the United Kingdom. The Sony deal is worth an average annual value of $50 million over the course of five years.

Along with U.S. TV fees related to Raw, Smackdown — and to some extent NXT — this should be the biggest quarter ever for core content rights fees.

The company will report an update on WWE Network subscribers, which have been down year-over-year for the last four quarters. During the previous earnings report, in April, WWE revealed that paid subscribers on the day after Wrestlemania were down from the year prior, although the total count including free subscribers was up. Free trials were nearly doubled.

Expect the advertising and sponsorship segment within WWE’s media division to take a hit due to a general decline in ad demand related to COVID.

The other media segment will be down from the year prior, only due the fact there was a major event in Saudi Arabia in Q2 2019, worth about $50 million in revenue. That segment this quarter will likely be carried by ten episodes of Total Bellas, which did well in viewership. This segment should contain revenue related to The Big Show Show, which released on Netflix in the quarter.

It’s evident from socialblade.com that WWE had its biggest quarter ever on YouTube. WWE probably only generates a few million in revenue from this area per quarter, however. Expect the surge in WWE YouTube views to be reflected in the company’s reporting of AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) views and viewing hours, reported in its Key Performance Indicators document. Related revenue is reported within the advertising and sponsorships segment of the media division.

It’ll be interesting to see whether WWE’s eCommerce and licensed product sales will be strongly affected by the pandemic.

A full table with revenue and key metrics predictions are at the bottom of this article.

An earnings release (8K), trending schedules, key performance indicators, an updated investor presentation, and a quarterly report (10-Q) will be published by the company at corporate.wwe.com.

Expect comments on the conference call from CEO Vince McMahon and the final full-time appearance of interim CFO Frank Riddick, who hands off duties to new CFO Kristina Salen effective August 3. It’s possible we’ll hear from Salen on the call, as well as EVP Paul Levesque. The later has frequently spoken on COVID-19 safety issues.

Anyone can login and listen to the call at this link.

The call normally opens with comments from McMahon and Riddick, followed by a Q&A session with financial analysts who cover WWE stock.

Suggested questions for WWE executives in Q&A

  • Top talent is aging. Some of WWE’s most well-known talent/IP (e.g., John Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, The Rock, Steve Austin, etc.) appears on core content infrequently. Creative vision hasn’t dramatically changed despite creation of executive director roles and personnel changes. CEO Vince McMahon holds the head of creative role currently for the core content and has for decades. Would WWE ever consider fully relieving Vince from his head of creative duties and replacing that role with new leadership while Vince focuses on other parts of business?
  • In February, a sale to a major streaming player of WWE’s “pay-per-view” content, currently primarily offered via the WWE Network, seemed imminent. Obviously, the pandemic interrupted those negotiations. When negotiations can fully resume, does the company feel the market for that content will be as strong as it was in February?
  • Is the company confident it can continue to grow broadcast values with viewership at its current level or is it essential that viewership improves before new deals are renegotiated in the a few years?
  • Related, how should investors view the ongoing decline in U.S. TV viewership for Raw and Smackdown? What are the metrics the company believes drive WWE’s core content rights? Viewership and key demos? Or are Raw and Smackdown’s ranking relative to other programming on the same night or network more important to driving rights value?
  • With the move in Italy away from long-time broadcast partner Sky and to Discovery, what were some of the key factors that played into that move? Was it similar to factors causing WWE’s move away from Sky in the UK earlier this year?
  • Related, are the economics in international markets significantly different than the TV industry in the U.S.? Is ad revenue and viewership more of a lever internationally? If so, what are WWE’s viewership trends like in major international markets?
  • Given the ongoing issues with race in the U.S. and the ongoing issues around women’s issues, particularly revealed in the wrestling industry recently, what policies does WWE enact to address racial and gender diversity, sexual misconduct, and discrimination? How diverse is the WWE creative team? What portion of the team are women? What portion are people of color?
  • Since the introduction of the free tier for the WWE Network on June 1, what kind of conversion rates is the company seeing?
  • Is there any update on the “global localization” strategy introduced by Paul Levesque a few years ago? Are there still plans to introduce localized NXT brands and Performance Centers in markets around the world? If so, what markets are likeliest to be next?
  • Are there international markets the company especially feels have growth opportunities?
  • Is there an update on the MENA TV rights deal? Is the completion of that deal being complicated by the broadcast of WWE content on pirate network beoutQ, supported by the government in Saudi Arabia?
  • Given issues with profitability of the Live Events division, post-COVID, does the company have a sense yet as to whether it will return to doing the normal 300 main roster events per year, including a large portion of non-televised events?
  • Does the company feel it was the right decision to begin testing in late June as opposed to beginning testing earlier?

Financial and key metrics predictions