Friday, April 29, 2016

Researching WWE Business News

WWE CORPORATE WEBSITE

The WWE Corporate website (corporate.wwe.com) 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. 


U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

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: http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001091907

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 PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS

United States Patent and Trademark Office: http://www.uspto.gov/trademark

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
Mark Drawing Code(4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
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
Type of MarkSERVICE MARK
RegisterPRINCIPAL
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.
CONSENT


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 http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/law/consent.jsp.

Failing to respond to this inquiry may result in a refusal to register the mark.  See In re Cheezwhse.com, 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 "https://trademarks.justia.com/" 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 https://trademarks.justia.com/866/26/sami-86626272.html (directory structure is "trademarks.justia.com/first_three_numbers/next_two_numbers/first_word_in_application-full_number.html).

-Chris Harrington, 4/29/16

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