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WWE profits up, stock down, plus WWE Network subscriber number

With the increase in television rights fees and network subscriptions as the key components of their current business, WWE generated $166.2 million in revenue and $10.4 million in profits for the quarter ending 9/30.

The numbers compare favorably to the $120.2 million in revenue and $5.9 million in losses for the same quarter last year, but last year was supposed to be a losing year due to the start up of the network.  This year was when profits were supposed to turn around big.  While they are nowhere near what was being projected and network numbers are well below original projections, the business is solid and contractual increases in television rights fees should lead to no more losing quarters and eventually the strongest profit margins in company history.

The growth in television was from $42.2 million in revenue for the quarter to $65.2 million. Some of that is misleading as increased rights fees that are contractual are a solid increasing number, but part of the increase was having a full season of Total Divas and Tough Enough during the quarter.  There were only four episodes of Total Divas during the third quarter last year and Tough Enough didn't exist. Plus, Tough Enough ratings weren't good and thus far, there has been no talk of a new season.

The other important driver of future growth is the Network segment, which on September 30th had 1.233 million paid subscribers and 73,000 free subscribers. That's up from the 1.15 million at the end of June, but down from the 1.33 million at the end of March.  It's pretty clear the network business looks to be big increases in the first quarter of the year due to the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, and trying to hold those increases for the rest of the year.

The U.S. Network number was up from 703,000 at the same point last year to 990,000, while international went from 28,000 at the end of the third quarter last year when it was in limited markets, to 243,000 this year.

Besides the India launch on Monday, it was announced that both Japan and Germany would get the network starting in January, and they were working on China, Thailand and The Philippines.

Even though the results were better than most analysts expected, the stock price had fallen from $19.95 per share at the close of the market yesterday to $17.95.  That's a big drop, but not a surprise given the big ramp up leading to the call based on the 'buy on hype, sell on results' mantra.

The other categories were more good than bad.  By running more shows, total attendance, revenue, and merchandise sales for house shows increased with $5 million more in revenue, part of which was due to the successful Barclays Center SummerSlam run in August.  Attendance was similar per show, but high ticket prices and more shows led to the increase.

- Home Entertainment was the only division down, but that's not unexpected given the Network would cannibalize that.

- Licensing was up from $10 million to $11.5 million for the quarter due to the success of the video game.

- WWE Shop also continued to show big increases, from $4.3 million in revenue in this quarter last year to $6 million.

- The 10/3 live event from Madison Square Garden was the company's most watched network show to date with the exception of the regular Sunday PPV events.  Other strong performers were the Beast in the East show from Japan and the August 22 NXT Takeover show from Brooklyn, as well as the Stone Cold Podcast and Swerved.

The expectation is, due to contractual growth of the television deals, that the company is healthy and profits should grow.  In many ways, the investment call was vague, but due to the changing landscape of distribution both domestically and abroad, nobody really knows exactly where things are going.  WWE pointed to its strength in places like YouTube and Facebook in that they will be ahead of the curve in the future. However, things change, and they downplayed the declining TV ratings by saying its not about singular metrics, and that most metrics are up.