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WWE 2021 Q1 financial call: NFTs, AEW, anime series, Bad Bunny

Still without live crowds or an international supershow due to the pandemic, WWE reported Q1 revenues of $263.5 million, down 9% year-over-year.

Despite the dip, operating income increased by 22% to $65.1 million compared to last year. In both cases, they noted "the upfront revenue recognition related to the delivery of certain WWE Network intellectual property rights" as beneficial which was from NBC Universal as noted in their SEC filings.

Other highlights they noted during the quarter was WWE Network launching on Peacock, moving the ThunderDome to Tampa's Yuengling Center, and a multi-year extension for NXT on USA and a move to Tuesdays.

WWE stock closed the day down 1.26% to $56.22.

Full audio from the call is below.

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Notes from the call which featured Vince McMahon, Nick Khan, Kristina Salen, Michael Weitz and Stephanie McMahon reading prepared statements and answering questions:

  • Vince McMahon said the pandemic allowed them to open "the WWE treasure chest". He also said the current team is "the best management team in WWE history." 
  • Khan talked about recent sports media deals and how they continue to go up in revenue. He opined that separating linear and streaming rights with regard to pro sports appear to be over for now.
  • Khan said they are going to pursue WWE Network licensing deals in other countries.
  • Khan noted a 30% increase in viewership in China and touted how strong they are doing in India and the UK.
  • Khan noted they have signed a deal with CrunchyRoll for an anime series, touted how strong Young Rock has been, and that the Steve Austin A&E biography did the highest number for the network in 16 years. WWE Hidden Treasures retained 79% of that audience. 
  • Salen said they will be in the ThunderDome through the end of June and still don't expect to return to live event touring until the second half of the year. When they do, they want it to be in full and not a split with the ThunderDome.
  • Stephanie McMahon said they brought in or retained 14 sponsors for WrestleMania 37 which was the most-viewed live event in Peacock's young history. She didn't give specifics on numbers.
  • NFTs will continue, according to Khan. Because they own the majority of their intellectual property, they are going to be heavy into it and have a plan they are excited about.
  • Stephanie McMahon said Bad Bunny's Raw appearances helped them increase 31% with the Hispanic demo.
  • Multiple references were made to a "large scale international event" which indicates a return to Saudi Arabia.
  • Khan said they and Peacock will both sell sponsorships and that the launch was the primary focus. Now, it's further monetizing it.
  • Khan said their viewership numbers "are robust" and that linear content "is a challenge for everyone." He said fans are the fourth wall and "we know immediately what's working and not working."
  • Asked about WrestleMania numbers on Peacock, Khan said they asked him not to disclose numbers but that when you wake up after two successful nights to phone calls/emails/texts from NBCU and Peacock executives, it means they are thrilled.
  • Asked about AEW and moving NXT to Tuesdays, Khan said "everything is competition" and attracting eyeballs to their content is what they are focused on. They believed NBC and NHL would part ways so moving to Tuesdays had nothing to do with them.
  • Salen cautioned a caller about their Q2 numbers year-over-year because last year, they ran in the Performance Center vs. this year where they will be running the ThunderDome.
  • Khan said they are "bullish" on live events, especially as related to merchandise.

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