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WWE Q2 financial call notes: AEW, Saudi event, Peacock numbers

WWE's return to touring was a main part of Thursday's WWE Q2 conference call, one that didn't include any official news about their return to Saudi Arabia but did offer one soundbite regarding AEW.

One direct Saudi-related question came up when president Nick Khan was asked about a MENA rights deal to which Khan said he, Vince McMahon and others were deep into negotiations and were confident it would happen. 

When asked if they are going to return there for a show, CFO Kristina Salen pointed to their investor guidance that they are planning on one large-scale international event for the second half of 2021. She did not confirm it was in Saudi Arabia as has been reported here and elsewhere.

When asked if he considers AEW as competition and a need to counter their investments in talent, McMahon said he doesn't consider them competition like he did with WCW back in the day backed by Ted Turner. He said he didn't know what their investments were in talent, but somewhat inaudibly mentioned something along the lines of "giving them more." Khan said they consider everything competition.

During his portion of the presentation, Khan said many live events were outperforming the last time they visited the cities, both in revenue and in merchandise sales. Their first post-pandemic appearance in Houston, for example, was the highest grossing non-PPV WWE event in the venue in company history. 

One of the more interesting notes was the year-over-year viewership notes on Peacock. Khan said viewership for Backlash was up 26%, Hell in a Cell was up 25% and Money in the Bank was up 40% from last year on WWE Network alone.

On the financial front, Q2 revenue was $265.6 million, up 19% year-over-year ($42 million). This was attributed to the continued monetization of content and live event revenue from WrestleMania ticket sales.

Operating income decreased to $46.3 million, down 17% ($9.4 million). Higher TV and event production for both the ThunderDome and WrestleMania were the reasons in addition to $8.1 million in severance and $3.2 million in compensation as employees returned from furlough.

Some other notes from the Q&A portion:

  • As he has done in the past, Khan discussed other media rights deals happening in sports across the world and how that will benefit WWE in the future.
  • McMahon said the last quarter was focused on efficiency both within the organization and with content production. He also pointed to positive trends in live event sales, TV tapings and digital video compensation.
  • According to Khan, SummerSlam at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium has sold 40,000 tickets thus far (of a possible 45,000) and will be the highest non-WrestleMania gate in company history.
  • The remaining 2021 schedule will be released soon.
  • They recently re-upped their Australian rights deals and are looking to license WWE Network internationally.
  • Khan said more scripted and unscripted series are coming.
  • Grounds for the new corporate offices were broken in June and they expect to be able to sell their existing corporate building once they move in.
  • They will be dropping another NFT at SummerSlam, this time with John Cena.