Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dr. Ring Tatsumi Fujinami Wrestlenomics

With the news that Tatsumi Fujinami will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, now is a great time to look at some wrestlenomics for this pro-wrestling legend.

With a career that spans 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s, few men demonstrated the longevity, influence or skill of Tatsumi Fujinami.

CageMatch has record of well over 3,500 matches which is certainly not even the entirety of his career.

He's wrestled with and against everyone from Antonio Inoki, Riki Choshu and Masahiro Chono to Fujiwara, Dick Murdoch, Bad News Allen, Gran Hamada and Andre the Giant. As you crunch his stats, an astounding range of names shows up - Barry Windham, Atlantis, Funaki, Harry Smith, Scott Norton, Vader, Hulk Hogan, Bill Eadie, Liger, Mistico, Sid Vicious, Nailz, Dynamite Kid, Tenzan, Tenyru, Ebessan and Iron Sheik. He's wrestled many people in the same family including the Guerreros (Chavo Sr, Mando, Hector, Eddy as Black Tiger), the Poffos (Randy, Lanny, Angelo) and the Smiths (Harry Smith, Davey Boy Smith).

He's a legend of New Japan Wrestling.

  • Between 1972-75 he had at least 516 NJPW matches.
  • Between 1978-94 he had at least 2,229 NJPW matches
  • Between 1996-2002 ahe had at least 409 matches and he returned in 2005 for 26 more NJPW matches.
Since 2006, he's been especially active in Dradition Pro_Wrestling and Real Japan Pro Wrestling along with Legend the Pro-Wrestling as well as stints in Inoki Genome Federation, Dramatic Dream Team and the occasional appearance for New Japan, Dragon Japan, All Japan, Toryumon Mexico, Osaka Pro, ZERO1, KAGEKI, FREEDOMS, WRESTLE-1, SMASH, Michinoku Pro and more.

Fujinami Record against Opponents

He's also a prolific tag-team wrestler.

If you subscribe to NJ World, I recommend you check out some of the links to some of Fujinami's best matches from the 1980s courtesy of the DVDVR Best of the 1980s New Japan list.

Who do you think will do the induction?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WWE CFO George Barrios at the Deutsche Bank 23rd Annual Media, Internet and Telecom Conference


This morning, WWE CFO and Chief Strategy Officer George Barrios spoke at the Deutsche Bank 23rd Annual Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in Palm Beach Florida.

A replay of the audio webcast is available here.

In terms of ground-breaking announcements, there really wasn't any.

As usual, the program began with Barrios walking through the latest version of the Investor Presentation. As always, he highlights that WWE is a "powerful global brand" with "multiple growth drivers". In particular, here are their important achievements:

(Barrios sounded exhausted on the call. Perhaps this was because the conference was in Florida and not in the greater NYC area. Either way, he seemed off his game as evidenced by things such as when he flubbed a line about WWE mobile gaming and talked about "WWE Scorecard" instead of "WWE Supercard".)

Barrios' message is almost always the same. He sells the "big five" for WWE. Those are:

  1. Powerful Global Brand
  2. Strong Competitive Position
  3. Content Rich Company
  4. Large Addressable Market
  5. Attractive Financial Profile


Regarding the TV agreements, Barrios did note that the top seven deals (US/UK/India/Canada/Mexico/Thailand/UAE) represented about 130 million dollars in existing TV Rights while the remaining 30 deals represented the final 47 million in existing TV Rights. His point was that "no single remaining deal has major value". When someone asked about whether they expected to stay with the same partners or engage in competitive bidding, Barrios noted that they stayed with their same partners for largest three deals (US/U.K./India) while in the case of Mexico, they did move to a new partner with Fox Sports Latin America.

Someone asked whether launching the WWE Network had any effect on the TV negotiations. At first Barrios tried to ignore the question just saying that "deals are behind us". When pressed for further comment, he just said that he "couldn't put words in their mouths. There wasn't a lot of discussion about it."

That's an interesting perspective and one that runs counter to what CEO Vince McMahon has publicly stated. In May 2014, right after the new NBCU deal was signed, Vince said on a conference call that he was "little disappointed" and that launching the WWE Network in February before they completed the domestic TV deal "definitely had a negative impact".


Of course, WWE is very proud of their over-the-top service. It's pretty much how and why they've started attending all of these conferences.

This was a graph they showed in the presentation, but it's a bit misleading. The 2014 numbers represent the number of paid subscribers at the end of the quarters (along with the post-WrestleMania number of 667,287). However, the 2015 number is a million subscribers (technically 1,000,648) but does not necessarily represent a "paid subscriber" number.

It's almost inevitable that Q1 2015 will average more than a million subscribers. But between a free month in February for new subscribers, the UK launch in early January (with extended-cancellation protections for "cooling-off period" and online forms), #cancelwwenetwork movements and anticipated WrestleMania swell, it's tough to know what the real number of WWE Network subscribers is.

Barrios did announce that WWE is expecting to launch WWE Network on "some new Smart TVs" this year.

WWE continues to push the narrative that the long-term goal for the WWE Network is 3-4 millions subscribers. What's their short-term goal? As usual, Barrios refused to give specifics. "We're not making any calls."

While WWE insists that they're going to announce WWE Network plans for "Italy, Germany, Japan, India, China, Thailand and Malaysia" this list of countries underlines two important points:

a) There's not many new geographies left for WWE to expand into. They already did the Domestic (February 2014), and International Launches (August 2014) and the U.K. Launch (January 2015).

b) It's highly questionable if WWE is really going to launch the WWE Netweork in a country such as China (strict censorship) or India (TV rights were quite valuable and may not want to upset their partner Ten Sports).

WWE continues to push the idea that there are hundreds of millions of households with "affinity for WWE" across the globe. This "tremendous appetite for WWE content" remains a popular talking point for the company, but a completely unproven strategy.  For instance, while WWE estimates there are 10 million WWE broadband homes in France and United Kingdom. However, France ranked #10 behind Chile, New Zealand, Ukraine, Mexico and Brazil for actual WWE Network subscribers according to an infogram that WWE produced. UK was #2. It seems that we're not really looking at apples-to-apples.


Barrios new favorite pitch is what I've termed his "India is the Future" speech.

The new TV deal in India for WWE is the third largest for individual television rights. Barrios noted that right now the monetization from the Indian market is "nearly 100% television rights" but he believes there is a big opportunity for WWE merchandising in that country.

While India boasts a large population and robust economy, broadband penetration is relatively low. However, Barrios notes that there's increasing mobile usage which often includes unique "download to go" features for Indian YouTube where a user can essentially go to an internet cafe, download videos and watch them later on their device while they are offline. Whether that sort of solution would work for WWE Network launch is completely unknown but that seems to be part of Barrios' India pitch.

How does WWE play overseas? Barrios said that "universal themes travel pretty well. Good. Bad."


As usual, the questions from the audience weren't that tough and Barrios sidestepped many of them. He was asked about social media, and how the company is planning to monetize the segment. Instead, he talked about YouTube and how revenue from YT has grown from "few hundred thousand dollars to few million dollars". That's all well and fine, but it absolutely ignores the real questions - does all of those Twitter followers and Nielsen Trending metrics really relate to any evidence that WWE is becoming more popular?

When he was asked about the fanbase demographics in the United States, Barrios said that they have "multi-generational viewing" and that means they "re-generate their fanbase".

In terms of the expensive investment from launching the WWE Network, Barrios insisted that they "have made the pivot" and that since 2014 was the all-time record for Revenue, the company is past the inflection point.

When someone from the audience noted that, "Particularly good plots have spiked business." He wondered if "Anything may drastically increase the viewership?" Barrios just said that since they produce 52 weeks of content each year, things are going to naturally ebb & flow. Furthermore, "We have a lot talented writers.Vince is a key part of that. Paul Levesque is key part of that. They assure me it's just gonna get better."

In general, the audience didn't know that much about wrestling. Someone said, "I don't know when the Royal Rumble was. Was the one million number announced after that?" There was an odd discussion whether Barrios tried to explain that only the PPVs go directly on the Network, Raw & SmackDown show up after the VOD blackout window (typically 30 days) and the other 230 live events are not televised. Someone else tried to point out that there was only a few marque events - Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, WrestleMania, Survivor Series. (Barrios' favorite word is calling them "tentpoles".) However, Barrios shot back, "We have 12 events a year!" Obviously, this avoids the real conversation about how big of a decline in subscribers should WWE expect after WrestleMania.

In closing, enjoy the Barrios Bingo Card.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Latest Articles, Demand at $9.99 and WrestleMania

It's been a few weeks since I gave a round-up of all of the pieces I've been publishing:
Obviously, Wall Street's reaction to WWE potential with WWE Network subscriptions has been very positive. The stock price has shot up more than four dollars from $12.76 (2/5) to $17.15 (3/5).

Yesterday, I looked at the "demand curve" for non-WrestleMania WWE PPVs if the price was dropped to $9.99. I used the last 13 fiscal years of data, but as a discussion with Keith Harris pointed out, if I drop FY2002 (which was the tail-end of the Attitude era), the projected demand drop from nearly 2 million to only 642,000. (Considering that WWE had over 700k paid subscribers for Q3/Q4 2014, it demonstrates just how "rough" this analysis really is.)

As for what's going to happen at WrestleMania for WWE Network subscriber levels, it's anyone's guess (and honestly, at this point that's what you're getting- a guess). On 2/20, I did an informal twitter poll  and came up with:
@mookieghana: So far, the average of responses has been 1,265,000 subs for WM. 10% buffer puts it as high as 1,391,500 subs and low as 1,138,500 subs.
Over on Seeking Alpha, Steven Borovay has been writing lots of articles about WWE. He published an article on March 2 which came up with estimates of between 1,167,848 to 1,335,048 for WWE Network subscriber count as of 3/31/15. Looks like we're both in the same ballpark. He assumes that there will be another Free promotion in May (I have my doubts) and that foreign expansion with drive additional growth (I am also skeptical unless a market like Germany or Italy adds OTT availability).

WWE certainly wants to announce as high a number as possible for 3/31 to impress the market, but it's very questionable how they intend to stem the loss of large quantities of subscribers in April/May/June. Until I see a quarter where there isn't massive churn, I am not convinced that just dropping the six-month commitment was sufficient in placating subscriber uneasiness. 

What are you thoughts? Hit me up on twitter (@mookieghana) or email (!

Monday, March 02, 2015

The relevance of Reddit

Reddit boasts a popular and large community of wrestling fans in their SquaredCircle subreddit.

With over 65,000 "Wredditors" and several thousand "in attendance" at any moment, it's a powerful forum for sharing content or discussing information. However, it's a very volatile crowd.

In trying to understand the difference between the wants (and hates) of the community and the reaction they have to news, I came across a very interesting piece of research by Ryan Carse ("Is Professional Wrestling Coverage a Form of Journalism?"). I wrote about this last July and had Ryan on my Wrestlenomics Radio podcast that month.

Consider these graphs from his paper:

As I noted in December in a post on the Wrestling Observer/F4W message board:
I thought it was fascinating that:
a) 89% of the respondents said they were between 18 and 34 years old.
b) 96% of the respondents said they were male
c) 97% of the respondents say they read news about pro-wrestling BUT only 2% say they subscribe to the Wrestling Observer yet 71% of the respondents consider the Wrestling Observer to be reputable/very reputable (with less than 5% considering it as not reputable).
Compare that to WWE Viewer Demographics: ... phics.htmlWWE only estimates 23% of their audience is in the 18-34 years old and only 65% is male.

When I realized how skewed the SquaredCircle reddit is suddenly things made a lot more sense. That's not to suggest that we're not "skewed" here either, but it helps to understand the difference between representing the average WWE viewer and the person who is posting on these boards (this board included).
I know that adecorativedrop asked the question in January at reddit, "Why do only 2% read the WON but 71% consider it reputable?" but didn't get much response short of "we're cheap" and "it gets reported at other places for free".

Vince McMahon loves to decry that "vocal minority" (mistranscribed as "local minority") is the source of rumpus such as the backlash against Roman Reigns and the #cancelwwenetwork hashtag. In same ways, he's right that there are large segments of the viewing audience which are underrepresented in places like reddit, pro wrestling message boards and so forth. Whether it's better that the tail wags the dog or vice versa remains a larger discussion.

I do think back to what Dave Meltzer wrote in the March 2, 2015 issue on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
Really, I’d rather somebody wrote a book from start-to-finish rather than readers who have no real understanding of book writing trying to force changes so the little sidekick who is supposed to be a bit player gets the girl and not the handsome lead who the whole book was built around.
I learned long ago that a good promoter listens to the fans, and a great promoter completely manipulates the fans. But the idea is that both make the fans want not what they tell the promoter they want, but what the promoter wants in the first place, because he has a better grasp than they do about business.
Ultimately, there's got to be a sense that WWE (namely Vince McMahon) really understands what he wants in the first place and what he accomplishes when he gets it. It's been a difficult two years as the Daniel Bryan plans have revealed the reluctance to change direction, but also the challenges poised by major rising stars (Reigns & Bryan) being injured in the middle of their big ascension.