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WWE financials: Record-breaking Q1 revenue, multiple bidders expected for TV rights

It was another great three months for WWE when it comes to making money.
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In what is becoming old hat, WWE announced another record-breaking quarter on Thursday, hitting a record $333.4 million in revenue in the first three months of 2022 -- a year-over-year increase of 27%.

They also announced an operating income increase of $92.4 million for the quarter, an increase of 42%.

WWE's stock was down over 3% for the day at $59.49 at the market closes. However, all U.S. markets were also down for the day.

Key discussion points from today's conference call can be found further below.

Revenue increase drivers

The major driver for the increase was their media rights which increased $36 million year-over-year, thanks to the February Saudi Arabia Elimination Chamber show. Live events were up $23.1 million from just $500,000 a year ago while consumer products increased $11 million.

The WWE2KK video game was part of the consumer products increase ($20 million vs. $11 million year-over-year) in addition to $4.5 million of live event merchandise sales offsetting a $2.3 million dip in ecommerce revenue.

Among the highlights they mentioned in their supporting press release was their multi-year expansion of content for A&E which will see 130+ new hours of WWE-themed series and specials; their MENA region broadcast deal with MBC Group; their long-term e-commerce and licensed merchandise deal with Fanatics; and the release of the WWE 2K22 video game.

WrestleMania 38 highlighted

While the event didn't happen until the second quarter, WWE did highlight WrestleMania as they usually do, claiming 156,352 combined fans were in AT&T Stadium over two nights. It was both their highest-grossing and most-attended event in WWE history.

They also said domestic unique viewership was up 61% year-over-year with global unique viewership up 54%, making it the most viewed "premium live event" in company history.

Of note, viewership in India hit a record 56.1 million views, a 29% year-over-year increase.

Attendance

WWE held 53 total live events in Q1, all of one (Saudi Arabia) held in the U.S. Average attendance was 5700 which is down from 6300 in Q1 of 2019 which is the last time they had live events for a full quarter.

Here are some notes from the quarterly investors call:

  • Vince McMahon was on the call briefly to kick things off, going through some of the major successes including "a stupendous WrestleMania."
  • Nick Khan touted how well WWE is doing on Peacock despite the streaming industry audience now shrinking and stabilizing in terms of growth. He said they are reaching new fans on the service and reaching a new audience. They are confident the company viewership there will continue to grow and that 1/3 of Peacock accounts watched some programming during Mania week.
  • Khan said to expect news on the next Saudi Arabia show soon.
  • Khan said 20 episodes of WWE Rivals are coming to A&E in addition to some post-shows for certain A&E Biography episodes featuring the star featured in the show. It's part of the aforementioned 130 hours of programming in the deal.
  • Khan said that when WWE enters next round of TV rights negotiations, they will have more potential buyers than last time. He feels it's a matter of time before Netflix is interested in live programming, citing Apple and Amazon's recent pushes in that area.
  • When asked about bundling Raw and SmackDown in a deal, Khan said that "can be a powerful tool" and that they will talk to both NBCU and Fox before deciding how to proceed.
  • He feels a robust international market awaits for WWE rights, citing the Peacock success in the U.S. They are in "deep talks" in many territories. and also mentions everyone is waiting on India cricket rights to gauge what's happening there.
  • Stephanie McMahon said sponsorship accounted for more than $10 million the last quarter -- a 50+% increase year-over-year.
  • She also mentioned gaming as a big strategy for their future, something that has come up on calls before. She cited a survey where 80% of WWE fans identify themselves as gamers.
  • She said they signed a new deal in the RPG space that will be announced soon, and are continuing to look into the Metaverse.
  • CFO Frank Riddick said there's no decision as of yet when it comes to the expansion of Performance Centers globally, but they are looking at it.