Peacock Distribution Ups WWE Q1 Revenue, Profit

WWE’s streaming video partnership with NBCUniversal’s Peacock SVOD platform paid dividends in the first quarter (ended March 31) for the professional wrestling company.

Peacock on March 18 essentially absorbed the WWE Network, the branded $9.99 monthly SVOD service, including 17,000 hours of content and 1.4 million subscribers. Peacock, which costs $4.99 with ads; $9.99 without, paid WWE undisclosed upfront fees per the agreement, which impacted WWE’s fiscal results.

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WWE operating income increased 22%, or $11.8 million, to $65.1 million as fiscal recognition related to the delivery of certain WWE Network intellectual property rights. Net income increased 67% to $43.8 million, from $26.2 million, on revenue of $263.5 million.

“During the first quarter, we continued to effectively execute our strategy, demonstrating our ability to adapt to a challenging live event environment and to expand the reach and monetization of our content in a changing media landscape,” WWE CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “The launch of WWE Network on Peacock, the multiyear extension to distribute NXT on USA Network and the successful staging of WrestleMania illustrate the enduring and increasing value of the WWE brand as the foundation for long-term growth.”

WWE Network to Launch on Peacock March 18

Peacock will begin rolling out subscription streaming platform WWE Network content March 18, just before Fastlane, the first WWE pay-per-view event on the service. The new WWE platform on Peacock will include all past WrestleManias leading up to WrestleMania 37 — the latter streaming exclusively on Peacock.

WWE will have a dedicated page on Peacock where viewers can browse and access every PPV event in the last calendar year; current or most-recent-season episodes of WWE original series “Steve Austin’s The Broken Skull Sessions,” “WWE Chronicle” and “WWE Icons”; in-ring action with new weekly episodes of “NXT” the day after broadcast; as well as 2021 replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown” 30 days after air; documentaries, including Undertaker: The Last Ride, WWE 24 and WWE Untold; reality series, including “Total Bellas”; as well as collections of featured series, topical moments like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Week, and playlists showcasing current Superstars.

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Peacock will add WWE Network content to the library, making the entire WWE Network archive — including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history — available to stream on demand before SummerSlam.

Peacock Premium will be home to all upcoming PPV events and current seasons of WWE Original shows. In the free tier, Peacock will offer a new WWE channel; select WWE Original shows; reality shows like “Miz and Mrs.,” “Total Bellas,” and “Total Divas”; recent in-ring content; and new weekly episodes of select live shows like “RAW Talk” and “The Bump,” both live and on demand.

When WWE sunsets the existing standalone WWE Network app on April 4, Peacock will be the exclusive streaming home to WWE Network in the United States. To continue streaming WWE Network content, subscribers will need to sign up for Peacock. As previously announced, WWE Network, including all PPVs, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5.00/month savings. Starting March 8, Peacock is also offering deeper savings for a limited time — details are available at www.PeacockTV.com/WWE.

Peacock Premium is included at no additional cost for Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and Cox Contour customers. Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast, and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation 5; and VIZIO SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

WWE Network Ups Q4 SVOD Subs 6%

WWE Feb. 4 reported that its branded subscription streaming VOD network averaged 1.5 million paid subscribers during the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2020, an increase of 6% from 1.41 million during the previous-year period. The SVOD service reached 1.8 million subs in 2016.

WWE recently announced a license agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform, making the AVOD/SVOD hybrid service the exclusive North American home for professional wrestling. WWE said the agreement enables the company to reach a larger audience and realize a greater economic return as compared to a standalone subscription service.

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“As we continued to adapt our business to the changing media environment, we completed an important agreement to license WWE Network content to Peacock, which we expect will expand the reach of our brands and enhance the value of our content,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.

Wall Street firm Lightshed Partners believes WWE’s decision to partner with Peacock rather than go it alone as a SVOD service underscores the value of distribution scale versus content “arms dealer.”

“The WWE Network strategy was not a failure,” the company wrote in a recent blog post. “We still firmly believe in a direct-to-consumer streaming strategy. However, it requires far greater scale and resources, plus a different DNA than that of a content company.”

WWE will return hosting its branded “WrestleMania” live-event showcases April 10-11, 2021, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla., with ticket availability and safety protocols forthcoming.

Peacock to Become Exclusive Home of WWE Network Streaming Service

In a major lifeline for pro wrestling streaming access, Peacock and WWE Jan. 25  announced a multiyear agreement that gives Peacock exclusive streaming rights to WWE Network in the United States.

NBCUniversal has a longstanding relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network.

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

Peacock will launch WWE Network on March 18, beginning the roll-out of more than 17,000 hours of new, original, and library programming on demand and on a 24/7 channel.

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The companies will share details on managing customer accounts closer to the Peacock launch in March. WWE Network, including all PPV events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5 per month savings. For an ad-free experience, Peacock Premium Plus will be available for $9.99.

“WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters,” Rick Cordella, Peacock EVP and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

Cordella said the WWE Network is a “transformative” addition to the platform and complements Peacock’s catalog of movies and shows, as well as live news and sports from NBCUniversal.

“Peacock is an innovative platform that will enable us to showcase our most significant events, including ‘WrestleMania,’ and provide the entertainment our fans have come to expect with the combination of premium WWE content, live sports, news, films and television programs,” Nick Khan, WWE president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

The agreement includes all live pay-per-view  events, including “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam”; “Fastlane” will be the first WWE pay-per-view to stream on Peacock on March 21.

Original series include “Steve Austin Broken Skull Sessions,” “Undertaker: The Last Ride” and the all-new “WWE Icons”; in-ring shows such as “NXT,” “NXT U.K.” and “WWE 205 Live,” as well as replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown”; and “WWE Network” archives, including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history.

Documentaries include “WWE 24,” “WWE Untold,” and “WWE 365,” and, starting in 2022, one signature documentary annually.

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation5; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

WWE Network SVOD Service Adds First Subs in Six Quarters

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

The streaming service helped the WWE brand’s media segment sustain revenue as live event sales crumbled 97% to just $700,000 from cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, the third quarter of 2019 had 67 events in North America and seven events in international markets, generating more than $22 million in revenue.

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Media revenue topped $201 million, an increase of 38%, or $54.9 million, primarily driven by the growth of domestic core content rights fees for the WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” and to a lesser extent, the growth in WWE Network subscription revenue as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms.

Distribution includes videos viewed on third-party (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, etc.) and WWE platforms (WWE.com and WWE App, including the ad-supported free version of WWE Network).

“Our third-quarter financial performance was strong and reflected our ongoing creativity in a challenging environment,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “We continue to adapt our business … focusing on increasing [virtual] audience interaction and engagement to support the value of our content globally.”

Indeed, total revenue topped $221 million, up nearly 19% from $186 million in the previous-year period. Net income topped $48.2 million, from $5.8 million a year ago, as operating expenses dropped almost 20% to $108 million, from $133.8 million.

WWE Networks Adds First Streaming Video Subs Since 2018

Following months of decline, WWE Network, the pro-wrestling subscription streaming video platform, saw paid subscriptions increase 6% in the second quarter (ended June 30) to finish the period with 1.69 million. It was the first quarterly video sub increase since the fourth quarter of 2018.

Spearheading a return to subscriber growth was the June 1 launch of an ad-supported free version of WWE Network that teased viewers with a portion of WWE’s content library to expand reach and engagement of its direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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Indeed, pro wrestling has proved to be popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with digital video views increasing 10% to a record 9.9 billion views and hours consumed up 15% to a record 374 million hours across digital and social media platforms.

Overall, net income reached $43.8 million, from $10.4 million in the second quarter of 2019, primarily reflecting improved operating performance due to reduced costs associated with live events. Revenue decreased 17% to $223.4 million from $268.9 million in the prior year quarter primarily driven by decreased sales of tickets and merchandise that resulted from the cancellation, postponement and relocation of live events due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“We continue to adapt our business to the changing environment, focusing on the development of new content for global distribution platforms and increasing audience engagement to drive growth and value for our shareholders,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.

WWE Launches Free Streaming Site

WWE Network is dipping its toes into the ad-supported VOD market with the launch of a free version of its streaming network — dubbed “Free Version of WWE Network.” The platform, which will not feature advertising initially, is an extension of the $9.99 monthly SVOD service with 1.46 million subscribers.

The free version will feature catalog shows from “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown,” in addition to 15,000 other episodes.

“The launch of WWE Network’s Free Version is a key component of our company’s digitization strategy and a new way for all fans to be able to experience premium WWE content,” Jayar Donlan, EVP, Advanced Media, said in a statement. “As we continue to reimagine WWE Network’s offering, the Free Version will serve as an effective way to reach a broader group of consumers and allow them to experience the history and spectacle of WWE.”

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Since launching WWE Network in 2014, the platform has seen subscriptions decline, leading management, including CEO Vince McMahon, to acknowledge in the most-recent fiscal call that the company was seeking strategic alternatives/partners for the service.

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WWE has aggressively sought to offer new home entertainment content during the coronavirus pandemic since live stadium wrestling events have been put on hold. The free version will feature weekly highlights, talk-centric “Raw Talk,” “The Best of WWE,” and original series “Monday Night War,” “Ride Along” and “Table for 3.”

WWE Q1 Surprise: Home Entertainment Revenue Surges

Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) reported $62.5 million in “other” media revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31) — a category that includes disc sales. That compared to $9.4 million in revenue during the previous-year period. The revenue surge was largely due to the favorable timing of the company’s large-scale international event “Super ShowDown,” in addition to theatrical and direct-to-home video DVDs sold at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other big-box retailers.

Separately, WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming video platform, saw average paid subscribers decrease 8% to about 1.46 million, consistent with company’s guidance. McMahon and senior management are attempting to restructure the $9.99 monthly SVOD, including expanding distribution internationally.

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McMahon said the quarter’s financial performance was largely unimpacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but added the situation could change going forward.

“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, which require us to be especially nimble, creative and efficient in order to ensure the long-term value of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement.

Indeed, the executive earlier this month permanently shuttered his pet pro football project, the XFL, for the second time with no plans to bring the league back in 2021. Featuring former college football players and NFL rejects, the XFL lasted halfway through a 10-game season before being shut down due to concerns about COVID-19.

The WWE also relocated its annual Wrestlemania event, slated for late March, to its Orlando training center, holding matches without any crowds.

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Interim CFO Frank Riddick said that ongoing uncertainties of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the business have resulted in reduced employee, talent and other costs and delayed approximately $140 million in capital spending related to the WWE’s new headquarters.

“This was done to strengthen our financial performance going forward and to ensure we have the resources necessary to execute our value creation strategy,” Riddick said.

‘WrestleMania 36’ Potential Lifeline for Slumping WWE Network SVOD Service

When World Wresting Entertainment announced it would go ahead with WrestleMania 36 on April 5, the caveat was that no spectators would be allowed in to see professional wrestling’s annual marquee event due to concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus.

“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” the WWE said in a March 16 statement. “However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida, to produce WrestleMania.”

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While the 2019 event drew 82,000 fans from more than 60 countries, according to WWE, WrestleMania in the COVID-19 era affords the organization an opportunity to jumpstart the WWE Network subscription streaming platform.

Launched in 2014, the $9.99 monthly platform recently enacted its first price hike (to $10.99). The move apparently didn’t sit well with consumers as the service lost 10% of its subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019. It ended the year with 1.42 million subs, compared with 1.56 million during the previous year. For the fiscal year, subscriptions fell 6%.

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The decline had WWE officials considering strategic changes for the SVOD service, including distributing content in the Middle East and India.

“At this time, the outcome of these initiatives is subject to considerable uncertainty,” wrote the company in February.

With the coronavirus suspending all professional, college and high school sports, pent up consumer demand for competitive sports (even staged wrestling) could deliver WWE Network the fiscal/viewer stimulus it needs, according to some observers.

 

WWE Network Streaming Subscriptions Decline, Company Looking at ‘Strategic Alternatives’

World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship subscription streaming video service, WWE Network, Feb. 6 disclosed it lost 10% of its subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019.

The SVOD platform, which launched in 2014 and costs $9.99 monthly, ended the period with 1.42 million subs, compared with 1.56 million during the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, subscriptions fell 6%.

Network revenue, which includes pay-per-view, dropped 12% to $41.6 million, from $46.8 million. For the year, revenue fell less than 8% to $184.6 million, from $199.3 million.

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In a statement, WWE said it is pursuing several strategic initiatives that could increase the monetization of its content in 2020 and beyond. Options include distributing content in the Middle East and India, and re-evaluating alternatives for WWE Network.

“At this time, the outcome of these initiatives is subject to considerable uncertainty,” wrote the company.

Separately, revenue from other forms of media monetization, including live in-ring programming content in international markets, scripted, reality and other programming, as well as theatrical and direct-to-home video releases, declined 12% to $56.1 million from $63.5 million.

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New WWE Network programming in the quarter includes “Steve Austin: The Broken Skull Sessions” series, featuring conversations with WWE wrestlers and celebrity guests; “Survivor Series”; and new podcasts “After The Bell” and “The New Day: Feel the Power,” which debuted on Oct. 30, 2019 and Dec. 2, 2019 respectively.