WWE's earnings conference call was hosted by George Barrios and Vince McMahon this morning.
Vince then took the and said that they had a "less than stellar fourth quarter" and thus a less than stellar year. He said 95% of the problems came from the film division and from TV licensing, with the latter due in part to decisions they made to hold back product distribution in the US, i.e. NXT and Superstars. He reiterated that if they couldn't make their new approach for the film division work it would be gone, but he thinks their strategy will work.
He said that they are in a good position to push their TV licensing. He said that there has never been more demand for WWE product. He mentioned Superstars and NXT as lost revenue sources (even though he just said that there is such huge demand for them). He said that Tough Enough was very successful (even though no season two has been announced and wasn't today) and that they are now developing Legends House. He put over the new shows on the YouTube shows and said that they have a lot of new product in the queue going forward.
Vince then put over the great job that they have done in social media. He said that they feel good about where they are strategically and that they have great global brand awareness.
He said that a good indicator for the business is live event attendance, which was up 7% for the quarter. He thinks that is a good barometer for business and he thinks the business looks strong going forward. He said that last week they were in Qatar and it was very successful (it was U.A.E. Vince). He said that there is a global growing demand for the product.
Vince turned it over to George Barrios, who talked numbers. He said that the earnings for the quarter and the year were disappointing.
George talked about the network is a big part of their future and their growth. He then said they had problems with the film division and explained why licensing was down as well. He mentioned a four million dollar hit for the "potential" network (yes, he called it potential), mentioned that Survivor Series cost them more money than usual (the Rock cost big bucks and the show only did 281,000 buys) and said online ad sales were down.
He then went over the numbers, which you can read them in the report we posted earlier.
He said that traffic to WWE.com dropped 22% as measured by page views. That says a lot about a lot.
He also mentioned that on 12/31/11 they had $165 million in cash and investments and virtually no debt. That is what still makes the stock very attractive.
He too mentioned their presence on social media and the fact that the brands are strong since they are number one shows on their respective networks.
Q and A period.
The first caller asked about the network and when it would launch. Vince said it would launch some time this year but there is no specific date. Vince said that the monetization will be better for them than other start ups since they own everything they will put on the network already. Vince said that they are very bullish on the network and that is why they want to do it right before they launch.
They were asked about the fact that they are doing more events outside of the US. George said it depends on logistics.
They were asked about how fans are engaged towards WrestleMania. Vince said it's been "tremendous". He said part of that excitement comes from bringing back stars from the past. Vince said it is the greatest demand that they have ever had for Mania. He also mentioned next year's show at MetLife stadium.
The next caller asked them to explain how 2012 will go financially. George talked about expenses that they had last year that they won't this year and how that will help the bottom line. He didn't really explain how they will make the sausage.
They were asked at what point will they pull the plug on WWE Films. Vince said that they have new leadership and a different approach and they will give it time to establish itself. He thinks it will work, but added that he thought they had good plans in place in the past too. He said that there is a specific time when they will say it's not working and pull the plug, but he doesn't think they will get to that point. He didn't say what that date was. He said that it is a business that they should be in since they understand stories and their stars and marketing. He said that they are in a better position than any studio to deliver product.
They were asked to project what kind of subscriber base they expect to have when the network starts. Vince said that you don't want to start a network unless you have a strong partner. He said that they can take a number of forms. He didn't answer the questions. He was asked to give a benchmark number for the launch. He said he doesn't want to say but it will be "substantial".
They were asked to reiterate that they will spend 15 to 25 million dollars on films this year and George said yes and that a lot of what is produced this year will not be released in 2012.
They were asked to talk about the relationship with Google/Youtube. George said they would not comment on what they are being paid for their programming. He said Google knows what they bring to the table since they have so many streams out there and came to them to deliver content.
They were asked about NXT and Superstars and if they were holding them back on purpose. Vince said that demand is so strong for their products that people want them (yet they are not on the air in the US). Vince made it seem like they are a hot property in the US and when the network debuts they will have two hot shows to put on there.
They were asked about Legends House and whether they were like the above shows and if they are in demand from places other than the WWE Network Vince said yes, as if they could end up on a network other than WWE's.
They were asked about the demands on the work force... (Continues on next page)