Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My WWE Network 6/30/2014 Prediction

On Thursday morning, WWE will release their Q2 Financial results. Since we see monthly KPI numbers, we already have a good idea about how some of the key drivers for the business (attendance, traditional PPV buys, Home Entertainment sales) are faring. However, an exceptionally important subject where we don't have a good understanding is the state of the WWE Network. In particular, we want to know how many paid subscriptions the service has as of 6/30/2014.

The previous post-WM30 announcement of of 667,287 subscriptions signaled that the WWE Network service was growing a much slower clip than they internally expected. Now, the looming question remains - without a juggernaut attraction such as Wrestlemania, how much more growth did the WWE Network experience in May & June?  Will they hit the bottom of the original projections - 1,000,000 subscribers by year's end?

Last month, I decided to take a poll on a professional wrestling message board that I frequent - the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Weekly website.  I'm a great believer in the wisdom of the masses and crowd sourcing.  Why not put Surowiecki's thesis to the test?

I offered chunks in increments of 50,000. Since I believed that the Q2 number will be above the number announced during the first week of April (667,287) and it would be below the revised goal for year's end (1,000,000), I wanted to concentrate on delineating between those middle buckets.

Some observations:

  • Over 85% of votes believed the WWE Network would report less than 800,000 subscribers
  • More than a third of the voters did not even believe the WWE Network would achieve 5% growth and hit the 700,000 mark
  • Only a very small handful of voters (less than 4%) were optimistic that WWE would be above 900,000 subscribers
If we look at the weighted average for this poll (assuming the bottom bucket represents "667k-700k" and the top bucket represents "1M-1.05M", it's about 750,983.  (Median, similarly, would be about 750,000.) If you exclude those two votes in the most extreme (1M+) bucket, and you accordingly drop two votes from the most conservative (below 700k) bucket, you'd get about 745,242.

For my estimate, I took the midpoint between the two estimates: median (750,000) and adjusted average (745,242).  That brought me to my guess of 748,113.  Again, I have no inside knowledge. In fact, I'm using the estimate from this poll to bring me to the approximation. I feel like that "hard-sell" we've seen this month for appealing to viewers to sign up, and the reports of Cost-Cutting Measures in WWE are evidence that the service is underperforming expectations, but that's the extent of my "other information" that I'm using to inform my estimate.

If my estimate is true, that would represent about 80,000 new signups since Wrestlemania which would certainly be sluggish.

My friend, Brian Papa, passed along a prediction that appeared on the "Silicon Valley Obession" 'Secret' iPhone app:

That's certainly in the range of estimates that the poll above gave, but I really doubt that such an important number is being "leaked" through this service. We can get to the same estimate without such unsourced wackiness.

Where will WWE publish this important 6/30/14 WWE Network number?  It will likely show up in (at least) three places: the Trending Schedule (which lays out revenue by quarter - look on the last page), the 10-Q SEC filing (which usually doesn't show up for one/two business days after the quarter conference call) and monthly KPI report (which likely will be released tomorrow alongside the normal 8-K report).

How do I do on WWE Network predictions in the past?
Let's see if we can be on the money again!


Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on how various subscriber numbers would affect the stock price? Do you think most of the "1M by year end" speculators dropped out when the stock fell back to preteen levels?

As for the "Wisdom of the Crowd" thing, doesn't it depend on which crowd you survey? For example, a poll on another site ( currently has nearly 50% of responses saying over 900k.

Looking forward to your coverage tomorrow.

Mookie said...

Wow. That LAW board poll is quite optimistic! Interesting stuff. I took my poll back at the end of June 2014. I feel like historically, there is a bit of a swell of optimism right before the announcement (I remember how I predicted 650k by WM back in March, but by April I was saying 775k). Also, I think that some people may conflate the 6/30 subscriber number with the current subscriber number (where the WWE Network has been getting strong plugs for the whole month of July) and forget how little WWE was pushing it back in June. However, you're absolutely right that there's no reason for me to believe that my "crowd" was smarter than their "crowd".

In regards to the stock, I can't say for certain because I haven't done the calcs, but recall to replace the 2012 NETWORK OIBDA (PPV+COD+other), they need needed 1.25M subscribers. I think if they're not even at 800k, the stock falls. If it's over 900k, the stock rises and the if it's between those two numbers, it'll depend on other factors. As I wrote before, there's a $10M gap in Licensing that they haven't explained how they will close. If they can address concerns like that, they have potential.

I think a lot of investors still believe WWE can hit 1M by the end of the year. If they announce a number under 800k, it will be very hard for them to keep the majority of Wall Street believing that.