This post will be updated throughout the day. You can also follow along @BrandonThurston.
Today I’ll be covering WWE’s Q4 earnings report. Much discussion of the new Peacock deal, plus annual records in profit and revenues are expected.
Documents release around 4:30pm ET at corporate.wwe.com. Conference call at 5pm.
Here are some things to inform you for the day ahead:
Last night I wrote a preview on possible topics to be discussed:
In November I wrote an estimate of results:
Earlier this week I completed a 63-page PDF report on the entire industry in 2020:
Documents have dropped!
Earnings press release: https://corporate.wwe.com/~/media/Files/W/WWE/press-releases/2021/4q20-earnings-pr.pdf
WWE reports Q4 net income of $13.6 million and a total of $131.8 million for full year 2020, a new company record.
Q4 revenue is $238.2m and $974m for 2020.
WWE reports EPS of $0.15 for Q4. Average EPS estimate was 0.32, so Q4 was about half as profitable as analysts expected.
Key Performance Indicator slides show Smackdown holding up better in Q4 on broadcast than Raw on cable.
WWE Network average paid subscribers for the period were up for the second consecutive quarter.
Online video consumption continued to grow in Q4.
WWE today records its highest annual net income in history, adjusted for inflation.
WWE records its highest annual revenue ever, adjusted for inflation, just short of $1 billion.
If operating income (before taxes and other adjustments) is your preferred profit metric, we don’t have as deep records on that but WWE appears to have shattered that record as well in 2020.
The annual report (10-K) has already posted:
The annual report (10-K) has already posted:
WWE had a strong year for online merch in 2020, generating $41 million, the most ever in a year. This somewhat offset the lack of venue merch sales since March. Orders were up from the prior year and the average revenue per order was the highest in at least 13 years, at $56.72.
There isn’t a ton of new information in the earnings release on outlook since WWE gave guidance last week when it announced the Peacock deal. WWE projects adjusted OIBDA (their preferred non-GAAP profit measure) for 2021 that’s within the range of what’s recorded for 2020.
As we wait for Vince McMahon, Nick Khan, Kristina Salen, and Stephanie McMahon to begin the conference call.
WWE was low on profitability in Q4 relative to analyst expectations. Not to an alarming degree, but the stock is adjusting down 4% currently in after hours trading.
Conference call on http://corporate.wwe.com finally beings. Sounds like we join in progress and there may’ve been issues with the audio stream. WWE president Nick Khan is talking, putting over the Superstar Spectacle and now Bad Bunny’s appearance at Royal Rumble.
Normally Vince opens the call. Sounds like we might’ve missed that on the corporate site web stream.
Khan talks about WWE targeting LATAM and India regions. In China, WWE launch on Tencent video.
You will see WWE championship belts using team logos.
He hands over to Stephanie.
I will now try to summarize and/or quote WWE execs. These may in some cases be paraphrases. Stephanie narrates WWE Network history and the next steps with licensing to Peacock.
Steph puts over talent appearing outside content, celebrities appearing inside. Matthew McConaughey. Yes Steph does mention Sasha Banks on Mandalorian. Rey Mysterio wearing the Victoria brand on his mask and posted on social media to his followers in Spanish how proud he was.
WWE CFO Kristina Salen begins. She reviews WWE’s record revenue and record profit. “Large-scale international event” is code of Saudi events.
Salen says Thunderdome increase production costs by approximately 25% per episode. Unclear if that’s relative to PC production or pre-Covid production costs.
Salen mentions Wrestlemania but urges WWE doesn’t anticipate the return to ticket live events until at least the second half of 2021.
Salen says sales for championship belts grew more than 100% in 2020. Seems this is likely a big part of what’s driving the increase in revenue per eCommerce order.
Salen notes 2022 and future years will be impact by variety of factors. Contractual escalation of core content rights fees will drive growth. Other factors may temper growth. We expect highest incremental impact of Peacock in 2021.
TV production costs after Covid may be lower than Thunderdome, but higher than 2019 due to Monday to Friday TV production.
Will want to carefully relisten to this guidance later.
This ends prepared remarks. Q&A begins!
Q: More color on costs for Peacock deal? One-time migration expenses?
Salen: Migration costs in Q1, embedded in guidance already. Tech infrastructure savings will be offset “by investing in systems that are long overdue.”
Q: On revenue side of Peacock deal. Any offsets there besides subscriber revenue going away? Stephanie, sponsorship opportunity following deal going to NBCU?
Steph: We can comment on specific deal terms but NBCU is industry leader in sales & spons space.
Salen: Revenue impact is embedded in guidance. And no other offsets besides subscription revenue.
Q: Is there ability to move higher profile content off PPVs and into Raw to bring Raw ratings up?
Khan takes Q, not Vince. Khan seems to tactfully answer no, focusing on Peacock.
Laura Martin of Needham tries to ask Vince a question. Nick takes this one too. It doesn’t seem Vince is in the room.
Khan says international plan just getting started, a lot of room for growth. Stephanie took over sales and sponsorship area. With NBCU partnership you’ll see more ad/spons opportunities. Championship belt deal “with just one of the major sports leagues”, doesn’t say which.
Q: What’s WWE doing to drive viewers back to Raw and Smackdown?
Khan: We don’t believe we’ve lost eyeballs. We believe eyeballs shift from linear to digital. Now that we’re out of presidential race, virus still focused on. With great in-ring product, there’ll be growth.
Q: Is the rest of media industry move to off load rights to bigger platforms? What’s given up by leaving DTC? Data?
Khan says to look for WWE events to big piggyback onto NBC events.
Salen assures there is no upcharge around special content (PPVs) so there won’t be volatility.
Q: How will NBCU evaluate success of WWE content on Peacock? Sub adds, ad sales?
Khan explains the three Rs: ratings, relevancy, and revenue. Ratings based on subs. Relevancy, as excited as they are about it. And revenue it’s an opportunity for them to sell against it.
Khan: “We think it has no impact on us, the departure of NBC Sports Network… There’ll be no affect on Raw or NXT.”
Very direct answer that seems to say Raw and more interestingly NXT won’t be affected by NBC Sports Network content potentially moving to USA Network.
Q: Can you help us understand profitability of Saudi events?
Salen says looking at Q4 2020 should give you an idea of the absence of a KSA event has.
Q: Do both KSA events in a given year have same profitability?
Salen: Talking about live events is hyper theoretical right now.
The call has ended.
Clarifying: Vince McMahon was in fact on the call at least at the beginning. Full audio replay is up at https://streaming.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1278679&tp_key=5afce1de54
Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.
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