Friday, May 27, 2016

Is WWE Studios profitable?

SpitTake on the F4W board asks, "Is WWE Studios profitable?"

It's a good question. Here's my take:

(WWE switched from using Profit Contribution from 2007 to 2010 to adjusted OIBDA from 2011 to current for their primary measure of "profitability", but the story doesn't change much.)

WWE Studios History
2015: $7.1M revenue / ($0.3 million in Q3 2015 and $0.2 million in Q4 2015 impairment charges) / OIBDA: -$1.5M
2014: $10.9M revenue / ($1.5 million in Q4 2014 impairment charge) / OIBDA: +$0.5M
2013: $10.8M revenue / ($7.0 million in Q3 2013 and $4.7 million Q1 2013 impairment charges) / OIBDA: -$12.7M
2012: $7.9M revenue / ($0.5 million in Q4 2012 and $0.8 million in Q1 2012 impairment charges) OIBDA: -$5.5M
2011: $20.9M revenue / ($12.2 million in Q4 2011 + $5.1 million in Q3 2011 + $3.3 million in Q2 2011 and $2.8 million in Q1 2011 impairment charges) / OIBDA: -$29.3M
2010: $19.6M revenue / Profit Contribution: $0.4M
2009: $7.7M revenue / Profit Contribution: $3.7M
2008: $24.5M revenue / Profit Contribution: $8.9M
2007: $16.0M revenue / (WWE Studios profit contribution includes a $1.9 million impairment charge in Q3 2008 related to the feature film, "See No Evil ," and a $15.7 million impairment charge in Q2 2007 related to the feature film, "The Condemned.") / Profit Contribution: -$13.1M

2007-2015: $125.4M revenue / -$48.6M (mix of OIBDA and Profit Contribution)
The Q1 2016 number was negative OIBDA ($6.8M revenue / $0.4M) but it's better to look at full year comparisons because they often take large impairment charges when it's clear something is underperforming. WWE changed their model in the last few years from fully funding big movies to taking on partners and funding part of production and looking at different distribution models. WWE did get a $35M credit line for the WWE studios (they're using about $28M of it right now).

WWE Studios: As we typically participate in a film’s results subsequent to our distributor’s recoupment of costs, there is a lag between a film’s release and its impact on revenue. At March 31, 2016, the Company had $28.2 million (net of accumulated amortization and impairment charges) of Feature Film Production Assets capitalized on its Consolidated Balance Sheet, of which $14.2 million is for films in-release, $4.2 million is for films in production, and the remaining $9.8 million is for films that are completed, pending release, or developmental projects. We review and revise estimates of ultimate revenue and participation costs at the end of each reporting quarter to reflect the most current information available. If estimates for a film’s ultimate revenue and/or costs are revised and indicate a significant decline in a film’s profitability, or if events or circumstances change that would indicate we should assess whether the fair value of a film is less than its unamortized film costs, we calculate the film's estimated fair value using a discounted cash flows model. If fair value is less than unamortized cost, the film asset is written down to fair value. There were no impairment charges recorded in the periods presented.

In the past, WWE would give lots of detail movie-by-movie in the quarterly (Q1-Q3) 10-Q filings. For instance, here is Q3 2015 10-Q filing:

Unfortunately, WWE seems to have moved away from this level of detail in their latest filing. (This is something I complained about regarding the KPIs in my SeekingAlpha article.)

What about The Marine? Wasn't that successful?

As of Q3 2012, WWE had received $37.8M revenue from The Marine and profit was $15.0M. The Condemned ended up being a money-loser at $10.9M in revenue with a $6.5M loss. 12 Rounds was $11.5M revenue with -$2.9M profit.

The success of the Call for WWE has been exaggerated because WWE only funded about $1.0M of the movie. So, they made $3.4M in OIBDA (which is great) but they only had a small stake in the overall film. As noted, they put in $5.8M for Dead Man Down (released March 2013) and recorded a negative -$4.7M OIBDA as of September 30, 2014.

Basically, WWE strategy has shifted to smaller investments in films and smaller rewards (and losses). Made-for-TV movies like Christmas Bounty or Jingle all the Way 2 have been profitable. Kid's movies like Scooby Doo WrestleMania mystery was profitable (+$1.6M OIBDA on +$2.5M Revenue). I would bet that The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown will be profitable. Oculus was another example of throwing in $3M to fund it, and losing $1.6M in OIBDA so far. We'll see what happens but I think they should stick with less horror and more kids.

Why does WWE have a film studio anyways?

The argument that I've used is that it's part of WWE's identity as an "entertainment brand". If they didn't have the WWE Studios then they would be running an OTT service - which shows wrestling. They'd be doing television programming - which is wrestling. They'd be selling merchandise - of wrestlers. It's hard for them to pretend they're anything but a global wrestling company. However, the WWE Studios is part of their entertainment branding and gives them all these partnerships with Hollywood studios so they can pretend they're more than just a wrestling company.

Jackanape: "Why not just be proud of being the biggest wrestling company in history though?"
I don't know. Maybe it's because Vince sees himself as a general promoter and general businessman. He yearns to be recognize as such.

While Vince sees wrestling as a bailiwick he can dominate, he thinks: why not promote Evel Knevel jumps, Boxing matches, movies, casinos, amusement park rides, video games, action figures, reality television shows, exercise lines, vitamins and supplements, singing & dancing bodybuilding pay-per-views, ice cream bars, and so forth?

-Chris Harrington

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Barrios at Needham Emerging Technology Conference (5/19/16)

Presentation & Audio here:

Laura Martin, Needham, introduces George Barrios. She notes they still have a $25 buy rating on WWE.

George Barrios gives his normal investment pitch to start the presentation.

The 70-80% views outside the US is important.

Barrios uses the Joseph Campbell "Hero's Journey" as the analogy for what WWE does.

Barrios notes that WWE doesn't put the same content in each pillar - it's not just the same programming over & over again.

WWE has their major TV rights agreements tied up through 2018. However, this does include the CTH/Thailand estimates which ended up with that international distributor defaulting on their contract for non-payment. This has never been addressed publicly by WWE.

Barrios notes they have "up to about 5,100 hours of WWE Network content and 150,000 hours in their library"

Laura Martin asks: "If YouTube is only $10M annually, why do I care?"

George Barrios' answer:

Three layers: First, the ability to engage 24/7 (we measure by time). When you're an entertainment property that means your ultimate measure is time. Our ability to drive that number continually higher is hugely important to us. That means more action figures and more subscriptions and more viewership in Pay TV (which manifests itself in the renewal pay cycle). Second, Kid's TV time is all about YouTube & NetFlix - that's where they spend their time. Multi-generational viewing continues in front of the TV but more & more of our next generational fans will come from these platforms. Lastly, if you look over the last hundred years of media, the money has followed the eyeballs. But it takes time. It takes the money longer than the behavior. The behavior changes and the money at first stays where the old behavior was, and then there's a tipping point. Eventually that becomes a big money maker.
Martin: "I can't directly generate money from it. But it lowers the cost of customer acquisition. But the social chatter lowers cost of acquiring a new WWE Network subscriber or a new television viewer... It broadens the funnel at the top and hopefully it trickles down."

Barrios: "Not hopefully! By our math, it happens."

George Barrios is quoting the David Carr article, "The Stream Finally Cracks the Dam of Cable TV" about the "scary place" which is the "long, dark hallway" when you're embarking of these sort of investments which involve changes in how media is distributed and consumed.

Barrios notes that they were six-months in and were "still trying to escape gravity".

Barrios talks about decision to partner instead of go-it-alone when WWE was launching the WWE Network.

Martin: What did you do wrong?
Barrios: Biggest regret - we didn't do it earlier.
Martin: Doesn't count.

Barrios OTT regret: When we launched - we had a 6-month commitment pricing - no promotional element - no free trial. #wweneedham

Laura Martin asked re: value proposition of the WWE Network pointing out the original conceit was to have WM separate/premium. #wweneedham

Barrios: "Our analog was the 12 PPVs annually provided through the MVPD community. The whole conceit of the Network in 2011 was thinking about that flat PPV business, monetizing our large & growing archive, and the best place to create new content. At $60 you have x amount of people 900,000-1,000,000 homes that bought 3-4 PPVs each year. At $9.99 with all this content, not just the three hours, we believed we could get beyond that 900,000 to 1,000,000. Now we're at 1.5 million which is up 25% year-over-year- we turned $80 million business into $160 million business - doubled. You have to believe lower price point, more content - penetrate more users."

Barrios talks about BB homes and goal to 3-4 million subscribers.

Barrios on Churn:
"Anyone work in a subscription business? You work in one,there's churn.Subscription businesses are like retail."
 "Two years ago there was 2 people who worked in a subscription business. I was one of them."
"There will always be churn but we always want it to be lower than it is now."

Martin: "the 3M-4M sub projection - how does the looks sub mix in maturity?"

Barrios: "Prelaunch est was 25%-30% come from outside US. 15 years from now, it might be different."

Martin: How are you using Data from OTT to change programming & advertising? 


5-6% of revenue in 2010 came from a digital source. Now it's 30% in 2015 primarily because of the WWE Network but we've had growth across all our digital businesses. Amount of data that we collect has quintupled in last 24 months because of WWE Network. We've always invested in technology but we're probably investing 3-4x vs what we used to.
The data helps us within each business. I'm able to run WWE Network more effectively because of the data in a variety of ways. I can see what people are looking at or watching. What are people watching? What shows? Where to spend money on programming the next time around?). It's not a survey or sampling like Nielsen. We get real data.
It helps us on the marketing. When you have the data, you can have customer profiles based on the data.
Netflix says they have 72,000 customer segments. That's 1,000-2,000 people in each segment. We started with one. We have more now. (Martin: Dozens?) It's there and climbing fast.
We don't care if it's a 12-year old boy and a 45-year old woman watching the same show - that's now a segment.
Even predicting churn which helps you stop it. Our predictive model has 25 different models based on which country they come from, are they a win-back, viewing habits and time of acquisition. My guess is a year from now it'll be 50 datapoints.
Similar stories on data on our e-commerce is how you sell more t-shirts. The real magic on the data side is how to integrate all of these data sets with the holy grail being social.
All these social platforms have different data structures. The ability to link our FB data to my YouTube data to our ticketing data to e-commerce data to Network dat ais a long slog for us. But that's what we're working on. We think that's what's super powerful. That's WWE 360 2.0.
Audience Q&A

Audience: Why did subs go fly last year given enormous growth of content and spending on the Network?
Barrios: We've seen a cyclicality to the Network around WrestleMania. We have a big event. WM is the biggest "funnel-filler" to the Network. The math around that means we'll see year-over-year growth but may see a sequential decline. Right now to continue to get to that 3-4 million, a cyclical peak that drives year-over-year growth but sequential decline. That gets to the power of that special event. I remember being at HBO and we'd seen the same thing in our core programming back then but not in the degree we see it because WrestleMania is our Super Bowl.

Q: UFC is for sale. Is WWE interested in purchasing it? If it gets an elevated valuations what implications for WWE valuations?
Barrios: We don't talk about acquisitions. I'm not going to answer that question. As far of the valuation, not much - it just keeps amplying the value of content. It just another datapoint.
Martin points out UFC valuation is possibly 4B. Which is like three-times as large as you (WWE), even though you're forty years old.

Barrios: I'll give you a buck if you can find a subscription service that doesn't give it away for free.
Martin: Maybe they don't give their SuperBowl for free.
Barrios: There's no cost to you. Other than that opportunity cost for that subscriber. We said, "Why wouldn't we do it?"

Martin: Do you suspend 30-day free trial for period over WrestleMania? Then opportunity cost is only $10 for that period.

Barrios is calling their churn "average 10% a month".

On the earning call, the day after WrestleMania, if things moved the way they've moved in the past, we thought we'd average 1.5 million +/- 2%. We expect it would be similar to what we've seen before.

Martin: 10% churn is about 10-months. They pay for 10 months and churn out. 
Barrios: Not a lot of people report Churn. Netflix doesn't. 

Barrios is now playing "how many different ways to calculate churn" (subscriber churn vs order
Barrios says different between sub & order churn as join 1/1,leave 1/15, rejoin 1/20 is a win-back and a loss. In the Cable business, if you're a sub in both periods, no churn.

Martin: Your 10% might equate to 7% in the Cable business.

The call is over. Last question was Barrios explaining how live events work in terms of what talent

More coverage of WWE Q1 Results and WWE International Market Strategy at SeekingAlpha.

Monday, May 09, 2016

WWE Subsidiaries

While they love to call themselves "WWE", the company is still technically the full "World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc." title.

Second, there is a list of all SUBSIDIARIES OF WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT, INC. (All subsidiaries are wholly-owned, directly or indirectly, except where indicated) that is filed every year with their annual report:

2015 10-K: 
  • TSI Realty Company (a Delaware corporation)
  •  Event Services, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WM Labor MGT, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Event Services (Nola), LLC (a Louisiana corporation)
  • WWE Jet Services, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WWE Network, LLC (a Delaware limited liability company)
  • WWE Studios, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Studios Originals, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WWE Studios Finance Holding Corp. (a Delaware corporation
  • WWE Studios Finance Corp. (a Delaware corporation
  • Erebus Pictures, LLC (a Delaware limited liability company) (50 percent owned)
  • Covert Films, LLC (a Delaware limited liability company)
  • Good and Bad Cop, LLC (a Louisiana limited liability company)
  • WWE Films Development, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WWE Studios Production, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WWE TE Productions, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • WWE LH Productions, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Marine Productions Australia Pty Limited (an Australia corporation)
  • Marine 3, LLC (a Louisiana limited liability company)
  • Marine: Homefront, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Twelve RR, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Six Forty Two Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • One More Time Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Mind’s Eye Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Incarnate Investments, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Fourth Marine Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Marine 4 Films, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • Triangle Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Action Six Pack #1, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Vendetta Pictures, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • Asp #2, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Lockdown Films, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • The Condemned 2, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Interrogation Films, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • SLH Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • BB Films, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • House Pictures, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • Temple Films, Ltd. (a British Columbia company)
  • Railway Films, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • Ticking Films, Inc. (a British Columbia company)
  • WWE Properties International, Inc. (a Delaware corporation)
  • XFL, LLC (50 percent owned)
  • WWE Japan LLC (a Japanese limited liability company)
  • WWE Australia Pty Limited (an Australia limited liability company)
  • World Wrestling Entertainment (International) Limited (a UK corporation)
  • World Wrestling Entertainment Canada, Inc. (a Canadian corporation)
  • WWE Asia Pacific Pte, Ltd. (a Singapore corporation)
  • WWE Germany GmbH  (a German corporation)
These companies fall into general buckets:
a) TV Production Companies
b) Film Production Companies
c) Overseas WWE offices/companies for paying international taxes for int'l tours (Japan, Australia)
d) Outside projects (XFL, used to include"Stephanie Music" company, etc.)
e) WWE Ventures that involve a large bank loan (like the WWE Jet)
f) Live Event Production Business (I believe "Event Services, Inc." is technically the subsidiary that's responsible for setting up live events with the electronics, ramp, ring, etc and has to pay taxes in each state)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Researching WWE Business News


The WWE Corporate website ( is usually the best place to find relevant news and financial documents on World Wrestling Entertainment.

Sure, there's links to the latest quarter's financial results (which are also on the SEC website) but there's a host of other documents which aren't hosted in other places. These include:
  • WWE Trending Schedules (a three-year quaterly look at WWE business performance by segment - very useful when you're comparing data and especially when they've changed their business classification schemes)
  • Investor Presentation (updated monthly, this the deck that CFO George Barrios usually brings on the road for his business presentations -- lots of hype, but often reveals the messaging that WWE is selling to investors & partners or latest demographics for WWE television shows)
  • Supplemental Quarterly Presentations (this is the deck that WWE shows when they're holding their conference call with slides that go more in-depth on messages from the press release)
  • Key Performance Indicators (this is updated monthly with KPIs that show WWE development in attendance, PPV buys, social media followers, DVD shipments or other areas - this is where, for instance, WWE discloses actual WM attendance)
There's also links to recordings of past business presentations at conferences and replays of the last quarter's conference call (and Q&A session). Right now, WWE has a replay of their 2016 Business Partner Summit which is an excellent way to become introduced to the key WWE executives and hear their business agenda for 2016.

There's a lot of supplemental documents on the website including profiles of people on the Board of DirectorsTalent Programs & Policies (including Drug Testing detailscopy of the letter sent to former talent offering rehab assistance and discussion of the IMPACT Concussion program). 

Monitoring the WWE Corporate website for new documents, changes and new videos can reveal a lot about the WWE Business strategy. It also serves as a great place to find out press releases which can especially useful when you're tracking development of things such as new deal announcement and television partnerships. 


World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (CIK 0001091907, Ticker Symbol: WWE) has registered with the SEC and regularly files required reports which are publicly available on the SEC website.

There's a lot of types of WWE documents available:

First of all, there is the annual reports (10-K). WWE files these once a year after the close of their fiscal year (currently December). This tends to be filed either in mid-February or early-March. (When WWE ended their fiscal year in April, they filed the annual report in late-June or early-July).

This is a great place to start when you're learning about public WWE reporting. It breaks down each of the company's major business segments and provides commentary and comparisons to prior years. Of course, everything is written with an eye towards sounding good. Typically, WWE will provide the same metrics year-over-year so it's possible to track very detailed buckets such as live event domestic revenue or DVD shipments. 

What can be more difficult is understanding exactly which business areas are being bucketed together. Over time, WWE has decided to reshuffle their business segments based on changes in their go-to-market approach. So, a declining segment such as Magazine Publishing moved from WWE's "Consumer Products" segment to WWE's "Digital Media". If you don't catch these subtle changes, it's easy to misattribute growth in one area without recognizing the canibalization/substitution effect from another one.

WWE also publishes Quarterly Reports called 10-Q. These are published during the first, second and third quarters (but not after Q4 when the annual report is released). These are detailed financial statements which provide excellent comparisons for quarterly metrics and often include specific segment break-downs (such as a complete WWE Studios report or exact WWE Network subscriber number) that are rarely found anywhere else in WWE filings.

These 10-Q Quarterly Reports are usually published the day after the quarterly results are announced and often are missed by the wrestling media which only cover the conference call and 8-K SEC filings.

The 8-K reports are called "Current Reports" and they are sort of a catch-all for a release from WWE with information. This can vary from quarterly results (usually listed as "items 2.02 and 9.01") to other events ("item 8.01", something like the McMahon trust selling Class B shares) to item 5.07 ("Item 5.07. Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders."). These are often press releases and the information is going to have a lot of spin/commentary. 

It's always important to look at exhibits attached to these because sometimes there are interesting documents included such as performer contracts or loan agreements.

The "Definitive Proxy Statement" (DEF 14A) has a lot of interesting information around the compensation of top executives and details of key elements/strategic objectives for the management team. There was a host of interesting disclosures in this year's filing. When you understand what's motivating the top executives in terms of compensation, you'll understand the framework for the strategic priorities that the company is pushing.


United States Patent and Trademark Office:

1. Go to the search system
2. Choose "Basic Word Mark Search (New User)"
3. Change Field drop-down to "Owner Name and Address"
4. Search Term: "World Wrestling"

If you click on the name (such as "ENZO"), you'll see the general information about the mark:

Word MarkENZO
Goods and ServicesIC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Entertainment services, namely, wrestling exhibitions and performances by a professional wrestler and entertainer rendered live and through broadcast media including television and radio, and via the internet or commercial online service; providing wrestling news and information via a global computer network; providing information in the fields of sports and entertainment via an online community portal; providing a website in the field of sports entertainment; fan club services; organizing and staging entertainment events with wrestling fan club members; providing online newsletters in the fields of sports entertainment; online journals, namely, blogs, in the fields of sports entertainment. FIRST USE: 20121130. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20121130
Standard Characters Claimed
Serial Number87010913
Filing DateApril 22, 2016
Current Basis1A
Original Filing Basis1A
Owner(APPLICANT) World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE 1241 East Main Street Stamford CONNECTICUT 06902
Attorney of RecordLauren A. Dienes-Middlen
Live/Dead IndicatorLIVE

If you choose the TSDR button, you can get additional information about the documentation going back and forth with the examiner (choose the DOCUMENTS tab). Common items includes the initial application, specimens (to prove use - often just a screenshot of a website offering a product in the registered class of use) and Office Action Outgoing. 

Oftentimes, WWE will register an entertainment services trademark ("Entertainment services, namely wrestling exhibitions and performances by professional wrestlers and entertainers rendered live and through broadcast media including television and radio, and via the internet or commercial online service; Providing information in the fields of sports and entertainment via an online community portal; Providing a website in the field of sports entertainment; Fan club services; Organizing and staging social entertainment events with fan club members; Providing online newsletters in the fields of sports entertainment; Online journals, namely blogs, in the fields of sports entertainment") for a wrestler such as Tyler Breeze

Increasingly, WWE is being asked about getting consent from wrestlers whose identities are linked with the character names that are being registered.

To register a mark that consists of or comprises the name of a particular living individual, including a first name, pseudonym, stage name, or nickname, an applicant must provide a written consent personally signed by the named individual.  15 U.S.C. §1052(c); TMEP §§813, 1206.04(a).  

Accordingly, if the name in the mark does not identify a particular living individual, applicant must submit a statement to that effect (e.g., “The name shown in the mark does not identify a particular living individual.”). 

However, if the name in the mark does identify a particular living individual, applicant must submit both of the following: 

(1)  The following statement:  “The name(s) shown in the mark identifies a living individual(s) whose consent(s) to register is made of record.”  If the name is a pseudonym, stage name, or nickname, applicant must provide the following statement:  “TYLER BREEZE identifies _______[specify actual name], a living individual whose consent is of record.”

(2)  A written consent, personally signed by the named individual(s), as follows:  “I consent to the use and registration by World Wrestling Entertainment of my name, TYLER BREEZE, as a trademark and/or service mark with the USPTO.”

For an overview of the requirements pertaining to names appearing in marks, and instructions on how to satisfy this requirement online using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) response form, please go to

Failing to respond to this inquiry may result in a refusal to register the mark.  See In re, Inc., 85 USPQ2d 1917, 1919 (TTAB 2008); TMEP §814.

This is putting WWE in a position where they either have to insist that the name does not identify a particular living individual or they must get written consent from the wrestler. So far, it's been a very mixed bag in how WWE approaches the issue.

For instance, in 2004, you can see JOHN CENA signed a "CONSENT TO REGISTER" formHowever, in 2016, WWE instead filed that with BRAY WYATT's trademark, "The name(s), portrait(s), and/or signature(s) shown in the mark does not identify a particular living individual." This seems to be an ongoing change in how the USPTO handles these registrations and how WWE wants to respond to the examiners. A very interesting case to follow will be how Shinsuke Nakamura's WWE application is treated.

It's also possible to find documentation when certain trademarks are transferred from one owner to another. For instance, in October 2014, the trademarks and service marks for "CM PUNK" and "SECOND CITY SAINT" were transferred from WWE to Phillip Jack Brooks (CM Punk) per the assignment documents.

The key number with Trademarks is the Serial Number. For instance, Sami Zayn entertainment services serial number is 86626272. There are websites that mirror USPTO information which you can link directly to once you know the serial number for a trademark. For instance, I like "" because you can quickly figure out how to link to each trademark once you have the list from the USPTO. Sami Zayn's link is at (directory structure is "

-Chris Harrington, 4/29/16

Monday, April 25, 2016

WWE 2016 Business Partner Summit Recap


The New Day opens the conference with a “Ahhh… Business Partner Summit - don’t you dare feel sour!”.

A few audience members cooperate.
New Day is dancing on the Stage.

Xavier Woods: “Ladies & Gentlemen, today is your lucky day. We are presenting you the investment opportunity of a lifetime.” They pitch Booty-O’s.
Kofi cuts off Xavier’s speech. “This isn’t Shark Tank. That’s not what we’re here for.”
Start this party off with a bang… Stagehand hands Xavier a Trombone.

Big E cuts off Xavier and claims “something extra special is planned”.

We’ve get the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
New Day Dances out of the room. Kofi and Xavier high-five several people.

(3:45) – Welcome your host, Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon.

“How unusual – I normally get booed.” – Stephanie

“Ever since I was a little girl, fans have come up to my father and asked for autographs or to take a picture. Whether we were at the movies, or out to dinner as a family, I just thought that was normal. But the one thing that always stuck out to me was what they’d say before they’d ask for an autograph. They’d always say Thank You.”

Steph tells the story of an adult who came up to her and said, “Thank you for all your entertainment throughout the years. I’ve watched WWE since I was a kid, and now I watch with my kids.”
“Maintaining relevancy, and generating a connection with our audience that has lasted for generations. And will be there for generations to come. How do we do it? The answer is very simple - Storytelling.”
“Everything in WWE is storytelling. Stories are relatable. If I can relate to a character, I am invested in their emotional journey. I become passionately engaged in their tragedy or triumph. Our superstars overcome adversary to become heroes in the eyes of our audience.”
“Recognizing heroes is an important part of WWE story that we developed a marketing campaign in partnership with NBC Universal called, ‘For the Hero in All of Us’.”

“For the Hero in all of us – continue to be cornerstone of WWE in 2016.”
“The real heroes are not the only ones you see in the ring, but the everyday heroes you see in the audience.”
“Our mission is to put smiles on people’s faces the world over.”
“Our partners help us with that mission by helping us create unique experiences that create memories that will last a lifetime.”
“This morning we’re here to recognize the business partner of the year – the partner who was able to generate the highest rate of engagement of our fans across our multiple lines of business. Because when our partners generate opportunities that reward our audience’s passion, our partners – all of you – become the heroes.”

Let’s take a look at our first nominee – NBCUniversal

“WWE is proud of our relationship with NBCUniversal. Raw has consistently been a ratings juggernaut.”
They talk about SmackDown moving to USA in 2016 and how WWE partnered with NBCUniversal for “The Hero in all of Us” campaign across all of NBCU’s channels and digital platforms:

They claim that this campaign reached 1 in 3 US Adults on TV alone.

They talk about the new brands added for advertising on WWE for NBCU:

(9:10) Michelle Wilson & George Barrios come out.

“We have an amazing story to tell you about how we’ve broken records in great part thanks to all of you.”
“2015 was a phenomenal year for WWE.”

Talks about record revenue (up 22%) and international revenue at $170 million.
How do we do this?
1. Willingness take calculated risks
2. Engage and Grow Fan Base
3. Partner with Blue-Chip Companies

1. Calculated Risks and Challenging Legacy Business Models
“A lot of people, a lot of experts, said that we were insane to walk away from our pay-per-view business. They said we were taking unnecessary risks. “
Michelle quotes from the NYT’s David Carr who wrote:
“For any legacy business under threat of disruption, the challenge is to get from one room — the one with the tried and true profitable approach — to another, where consumers are headed and innovators are setting up shop. To get there, you have to enter a long, dark hallway, a scary place.”
Barrios chimes in, ”Very scary!”

“We actually entered that long dark hallway two years ago and we’ve come out the other side.”
“WWE Network doubled the revenue of our legacy business. It’s now our second largest and single fastest growing business.”

“How successful has WWE Network been? Parks Associates named us the 5th largest direct-to-consumer video service along Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and MLB.TV.”

“It pretty amazing company for us to keep.”
Barrios goes through hours of content (5,000) hours of new 2015 content (350), hours of content consumed by subscriber (256 million hours of content; 188 hours/subscriber).

“We are the first global direct-to-consumer network. We only have China left and we hope to announce that soon.”

“WWE Network represents our single greatest avenue to keep deriving transformative growth. Our success around the world means we’re driving continuous consumer engagement with our brand, and by extension, all your products and services, and our 175 global consumer licensees. More engagement, more consumer opportunities.”

“The better we do, the better we all do.”

2. Unrelenting focus on engaging and growing our Fan Base.

Five years ago, we made a commitment to own the digital and social landscape. We saw it as a landgrab.

They play a video about “Steve” who is highly engaged with the WWE.

“If you know Steve, you know to leave him along when the shows are on.
He’ll only watch them live!”

“He knows the storylines continue on social. He doesn’t want to miss a beat.”

“They know the WWE Universe never stops and they don’t want to miss a single moment.”

“A year ago we had 450 million social media followers around the world – today that number is more than 625 million.”
“On YouTube, our views have grown from 3.5 billion to a monumental 8 billion annually.”

Michelle: “If you stop and think about that, eight billion annually is equivalent to every single person on the planet watching a WWE video."

Michelle: "Those views have made WWE the #1 sports channel on all of YouTube.”

George: “Being such a social brand help us take NXT from a system to develop our next WWE superstars to a global brand on to itself. Incredibly, NXT is one of our most watched programs on WWE Network. It trends globally on Twitter and in 2015 we toured NXT outside the US for the first time.”

George: “Our chairman always said, ‘NXT guarantees our collective future success.’ You’ll hear a lot more about NXT from Paul Levesque later. Let’s not forget, the keystone of WWE and the reason we’re all here in Dallas – WrestleMania.”

Forbes ranked WrestleMania as one of the Top 5 most valuable Sports brand in the entire world alongside Olympics, FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl.

3. We would be remiss not to recognize our best in class partnerships with all of you. The third key to our success.

"Delivering compelling, long-form content continues to be the foundation of our success for global fan engagement. TV Partners remain an integral part of our ecosystem around the world, we are extremely proud of our relationships with Sky TV (UK), Ten Sports (India), Fox (Latin America) and Rogers (Canada) to name a few. They provide us with that broad platform to reach all of our fans. "

"Domestically we’re very proud of our partnership with NBC Universal. This past January SmackDown joined Monday Night Raw on USA Network. Combined they average more viewers than top five cable networks in Prime Time.”

We’ve also expanded our audience with E! Network to produce Total Divas which has been very successful and is now in its fifth season.

“An incredible two-thirds of Total Divas viewers are totally new to the WWE brand.”
Working with our friends at NBC Universal, important to both of us, we added 37 new advertisers to WWE programming.

One of them, Coca Cola, sponsored WWE week on USA and the Tribute to the Troops special.

We’re excited about our new marketing relationship with ESPN.

WWE talent has been featured weekly on Sportscenter driving viewership and engagement across all of ESPN’s platforms.

What’s most important are our partnerships that shine a light on critical social issues.

“Whether it’s anti-bullying efforts, pediatric cancer awareness, inclusion of those with disabilities or supporting the men and women in our military, we are particularly proud to use our brand’s strengths and outreach initiatives to truly make a difference.”

Barrios: “So 2015 was great. The question is where do we go from here? For 2016 we’ve got three areas that we’re really laser-focused on.”
1. Deploying new technology across the entire WWE enterprise
2. Continuing to invest in emerging markets
3. Creating Great Content

First, let’s talk about using technology and Data:
1. Using Technology and Data

“Today’s almost one-third of our revenue come from our digital platforms. A few years ago, that was 6%. We’re investing heavily in technology to capture and mine that data to optimally drive more engagement for our consumers.”

“How about virtually reality, 360 video? It’s on every brand’s to-do list. We’ve already thrown ourselves into that ring. Our fans can now get a ring-side experience through our partnership with Samsung.”

2. Emerging Markets
“We’re adding partnerships across the global including in China, in India and the Middle East. You’re going to hear a lot more about this from Gerrit Meier later.”

3. New Content
On WWE Network, from reality to comedy, to in-ring programming, we plan to deliver more hours than ever before. Let’s take a look. (WWE Network promo video plays.)

“We also continue to work with external partners on new content – action movies with our partners at Lions Gate to more family-friendly fare with our partners at Warner Bros and new programming E! that promises to deliver even more diva-drama than ever before.”

That’s how we’re going to expand on last year’s success. We’re excited to help all of you leverage WWE’s rapidly expanding global platform to benefit you and your consumers.

(24:15) Stephanie returns

Stephanie McMahon returns to the stage

WWE has five key brand pillars:
a. Pro-Social
b. Fan Engagement
c. Multicultural
d. Innovation
e. Family Friendly

Our audience is comprised of families, many of whom you will see tomorrow night at WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium.
The energy will be palpable. The smiles will be broad & wide as we create memories that will last a lifetime.

“Tomorrow night we are going to shatter our own attendance record of 93,173 that was previously set all the way back at WrestleMania III.” – Stephanie McMahon

Tomorrow night’s extravaganza would not be possible without this next nominee, and the presenting partner of this year’s WrestleMania. (Plays series of Snickers commercials)

“In February 2016, WWE announced an exclusive partnership with Snickers (presenting partner of WrestleMania). We are thrilled to welcome them to the WWE family.”

(27:30): Executive Vice President Consumer Products – Casey Collins

“Good morning Partners. WWE Consumer Products had an astounding year in 2015 with year-over-year growth of 26%. Without each of you, this would not have been possible so thank you.”

Video Games & Mobile Gaming

WWE has always been a leader in Videogames, and 2015 was a huge year for us.

Our strategy has been to expand our console’s success with our partner 2k through next-generation features and innovative marketing. We understand that our fans want and expect a truly immersive simulation experience. In 2015, our console games were up 48% (year-over-year). With our latest release, WWE 2k16, we’ve been able to drive continuous fan engagement through a host of new features.

Fans asked for it, so we gave them our biggest roster ever with over 140 superstars. The Stone Cold Steve Austin 2K Showcase Mode allows you to relive iconic moments from the Texas Rattlesnake’s Hall of Fame career. And our new career mode lets you define your own legacy by making critical choices while rising through the ranks and finally earning your spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.

We’ve also expanded our footprints in the mobile gaming space with a diverse portfolio of titles for both casual and core fans. The strategy we developed for a non-existent business in 2014 has quickly paid huge dividends.

It all started with WWE SuperCard with over 9 million installs to date, this collectible card battle game has electrified our fans. With an expansive roster of hundreds of customizable cards and gameplay modes.
We followed WWE SuperCard with Immortals, now with over 15 million installs.

Immortals takes your favorite superstars out of the ring and into the supernatural where they jump into epic combat battles with spectacular signature moves.

We’ve also successfully integrated our superstars into other well-established game franchises and genres. Our team is working with some of the highest-grossing titles to build exciting in-game crossover events.

If you’re into street racing games, we have racing rivals from Glu.

Maybe you prefer over-the-top monster trucks? MMX Racing from Hutch would be a great fit for you.

If you like Slot machines but can’t make it Vegas, Hit It Rich! From zynga is your game. 19

And who would have ever thought that Triple H would invade Quahog in TinyCo’s hit Family Guy game.

Next up is WWE Champions by Scopely. This new puzzle game allows you to create and customize your roster with thousands of combinations. You can battle against or team up with friends in live events and tournaments around the world. We’re expecting Champions to be the next hit in Scopely impressive string of seven consecutive #1 titles.

You can definitely expect more as we continue to find new best-in-class partners and expand into new genres like Role-play, City Builders and Strategy games.

Action Figures

WWE is once again the #3 action figure brand behind only Star Wars and Turtles.
Our master toy partner Mattel once again delivered in 2015 with growth of +11%. A key factor that lead to that result was a focused-exclusive product range across all major retailers.

Our Hall of Fame line was a catalyst for this the 30% growth we saw at Target in 2015.

Toys R Us introduced their exclusive range of Network Spotlight products in December. This line focuses on iconic moments highlighted on the WWE Network.

And Walmart has been a vital partner to our brand’s success in the toy aisle. Their exclusive “Then, Now, and Forever” range draws from WWE eras to deliver iconic moments, legendary tandems, and looks of superstars of tomorrow.

Mattel is looking to continue their momentum by developing a broader range of products in 2016 including innovations like the new "Three-Count Crushers." Slam them, fling them, pin them to activate Superstar voices, musics and sounds.

Mattel is also going to bring to life the popular inspired Superstars Zombie line for Halloween this year. These ghouls will add to the largest variety of superstars to date in the basic, elite and battle pack assortments.

Toy Partnerships

Last year we also signed a variety of new toy partners to fill in the white space opportunities that we saw and address the market needs and reinforce Mattel’s action figure platform.

Our new partners in 2016 includes jakks pacific, Playmates and Bandai – all top 10 global toy companies.


Last year in San Jose, I announced our exciting new partnership with Authentic Brands Group to relaunch TapouT as a leading hardbody fitness group. We and ABG are dedicated to inspiring the athletes in every individual across all facets of fitness.

Today I’m pleased to share with you the new TapouT.

TapouT is about dedication, determination and perseverance. It’s about the commitment and drive it takes to be your personal best.

As the official fitness and training partner of WWE, TapouT products will be worn and used by our superstars as they exercise and train. We’ve partnered with blue chip licensees and retailers to bring a full suite of TapouT products to market around the world.

In fact, TapouT Men’s performance apparel launched at JCPenny’s and this past week with John Cena as its spokesperson
Our goal is to offer WWE fans high-quality athletic apparel at an affordable price-point. And men’s apparel – that’s just the beginning.

We’re already working with women’s apparel, boy’s apparel, accessories, gyms and much, much more.
So I’ll leave you today with TapouT, available now at JCPenny’s and

(35:30) Stephanie McMahon returns

Play, whether through gaming or toys, is just one way for our fans to engage with WWE because WWE utilizes all of our platforms to create a content ecosystem keeping our fans connected to our brand whenever, wherever, and however they wish.
Let’s take a look at one of our biggest stories going into this year’s WrestleMania – the return of my brother, Shane McMahon.
For the first time in seven years, Shane made a surprise return to Monday Night Raw to reclaim his legacy.

And the world reacted.

“Shane McMahon trended worldwide on Twitter. And Monday Night Raw’s social engagements increased 67%. “

From a storyline perspective, the only way that my brother is able to gain control of WWE, a longshot by the way, is if he’s able to win his match at WrestleMania inside Hell in a Cell against one of the most formidable opponents in all of WWE – the Undertaker.”

Digitally, this story continued on YouTube. WWE posted the clip of Undertaker response to Mr. McMahon saying, “The blood of the son would be on the hands of the father”.

That clip garnered over four million views.
Fans were then given the opportunity to engage through a poll on and’s new mobile experience asking the audience if Shane McMahon really stood a chance against the Undertaker.

And for those members of the audience that forgot Shane’s in-ring capabilities, they could head over to the WWE Network’s new collections feature showcasing some of Shane’s greatest moments.

All of this of course leads to the live event itself at WrestleMania which of course will be streamed live on the hub of our content ecosystem, WWE Network.

The next nominee not only created original content featuring WWE superstars and legends, but also leveraged all of our platforms to keep our audience connected to their brand and ours.

(Video package all about Take-Two interactive and WWE video games.)

(40:30) WWE President of International, Gerrit Meier

Good Morning everyone, it’s so good to see so many familiar faces and also several new ones.
Three years ago, we established a new growth plan for WWE to refocus and expand our business outside of the United States. This plan focused on brand engagement, embracing cultural diversity and developing key business partnerships. This plan also came with a commitment to you, our partners, to put boots on the ground in your region, innovative with you and write a powerful story about how to grow successfully together.

And together, we have remained diligent and steadfast in the pursuit of this plan, and it has been successful.
As you’ve already heard from Michelle & George, 2015 was a very successful year for WWE as a whole and the same was true for our regional offices which exceeded expectations and collectively grew revenue 46% year-over-year.
Today nearly one-third of WWE’s total revenue comes from outside the US, and it’s particularly exciting see that our business is growing across all of our lines of business and across all of our regions – Europe, Middle East, Asia, Mexico & Latin America as well as Canada – all of which contributed to WWE’s progress.
As mentioned, a key success driver for our growth plan was brand engagement. And WWE’s international facebook engagement grew 130% year-over-year with the number of followers up 62%.

For our live events, we saw average paid attendance growth +19%.
And last, but certainly not least, our international subscribers grew from 5% to 24%.

The international WWE universe is truly engaged and makes a solid base to grow further. A couple of years ago, in our business partner summit in New Orleans, we talked about WWE’s commitment to local investment and new offices and local resources.
We now see these investments paying off. In the Middle east, where we opened a WWE office only two years ago, we built a strong foundation for reoccurring live events – we successfully returned to Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia and in 2016 will expand to Dubai.
On the sponsorship side, we signed our largest international sponsorship deal to date with Hardee’s.

Other local WWE investments tell similar stories. In Mexico, where we recently staffed a new local team, we held our most successful live events in five years. And for our consumer products business, we entered into our first direct-to-retail agreement with Walmart.

In Germany, which serves as our new central office for Continental Europe, as the result of a new regional TV direction including our partners Tele-5 and PROSIEBENSAT, we now have seen a 10x viewership increase just over the last two years alone.

Just a few weeks ago, we successfully returned to the market with a dedicated “Road to WrestleMania” tour and hosted our first ever business partner summit in Germany with over one hundred current and potential partners with similar events in France, Italy, the UK, and other markets.

All of this just a few examples of how we’re evolving in regions.
We’re immersing the WWE brand into these cultures every day. And speaking of our cultural immersion, India remains one of WWE’s top international priorities. We just returned to the market for two successful live events after 14 years absence. This wouldn’t be possible without our partnership with Ten Sports.

This included expanding our reach to a broader audience on Z-TV with a local language program in Hindi and English incorporating local and international stars. This region alone grew our region in India to 120 million households.
All of this is very, very exciting and looking ahead, we will continue to grow and empower a global team of regional resources to embrace the different cultures, different styles, and find ways grow through local expertise and local partnerships. And as such, we will continue to focus on distribution network, expanding our international audience in terms of subscriber base as we just did by launching the WWE Network in India, Germany and Japan.
Social and Digital evolving our approach to grow social engagement. Onboarding new advertising partners and strengthening our regional commerce product offering.

And live events. We will be new live markets, like Latin America and piloting new business and sponsorship opportunities and significantly increasing our corporate social responsibility activities.
We believe that the best chapters in WWE’s international growth story are yet to come and together we can look forward to another great year. Thank you.

(46:20) Stephanie is back out for another nominee.
Sustainable growth in the Middle East.

OSN deal is through 2019.

Stephanie McMahon is back out.

WWE’s secret sauce is that our fans are part of our show. Can you imagine Monday Night Raw without anyone in the audience? Whether they are holding signs, cheering, booing, tweeting, snapchatting.
Nowhere is that more true than at NXT.
“At NXT, our fans literally choose who is going to make it to the main roster by who they deem most popular.”
Business Partner nominee – Full Sail University

NXT App will fans both live and at home to stay connected like never before.

WWE has awarded $250,000 in scholarships to Full Sail students.
(52:00) EVP Talent, Live Events & Creative

HHH pretends to be nervous. “Nervous. A lot of people. Not used to talking in front of this many people.”

(Stephanie comes out and tells him that he’s got this. The joke dies a terrible death.)

Talent is the lifeblood of what we do.
It’s the DNA. It holds all of our stories together.
Without phenomenal talent, we have no protagonists and we have no antagonists. We have no story to tell.

So how do we create a WWE superstar? And we get asked that all the time.
What do you do when you get asked a question you don’t know the answer to? You do what everybody does – you ask Siri. So that’s what I did. And it turns out it’s really simple, Siri said – this is easy! First, you scour every corner of the globe, you find elite athletes and talent, you create a worldclass training facility that never existed and top that off with a brand that becomes a global sensation. Boom, easy, right?
Siri’s programming might cause it to exaggerate a little bit. It turns out it’s not quite that easy. But what the hell – we did it anyways.
75 next generation superstars. Designed to develop the most well-rounded athletes both on and off the screen. Global expansion of our recruiting strategy.
250 athletes tried out. Only 34 received developmental contracts.
The WWE Performance Center and NXT has totally transformed how we create superstars.
Example how? Sasha Banks.

3.5 years went from walking in the door to headlining WrestleMania.

(1:01:00) Stephanie McMahon returns

End of Presentation with John Cena presenting the Business Partner of the Year: NBC Universal.