Here are some notes from today’s WWE conference call, featuring Vince McMahon discussing the first quarter financials…
* Vince stated that TV ratings are holding up very well and that their social media numbers are extraordinary. He noted that people think they are cutting edge and doing it better than everyone else. “I suppose we are, but we’ve only scratched the surface,” McMahon said. He also mentioned their relationship with Youtube.
* Vince said they are continuing with their WWE Network launch plans, mentioning that they are making key hires. He also said the negotiations continue with the carriers, and said that is going very well.
* Vince then discussed the new WWE Studios model before turning things over to CFO George Barrios, who ran through the financial presentation. Once he finished his presentation, which was a recap of the umbers and such that have been previously posted, they opened up the lines for phone calls.
* When asked what went right with WM 28, Vince said it was implemented better and feels that The Rock helped them spotlight their own stars. He also praised the Triple H vs. Undertaker match. “It was much better executed than in years past,” McMahon said.
* A caller asked about the timeline for the launch of the cable network seeming to be slower than expected and asked what’s holding things up. Vince said they are continuing to develop new strategies and noted that they have the old strategy and new strategy and they’re trying to determine which one looks best. He then made sure to note that the hold up is on their end, not on the end of the cable and satellite distributors.
* Vince stressed that they want to own 100 percent of the network. “Control is extremely important and what goes on the network and the lack of restrictions for us is extremely important. Our model is one in which will give us a lot more flexibility, which is extremely important to us, and that’s one of the differences we’re looking at.”
* The range of start up costs anticipated in 2012 for the WWE network is $10-15 million. Barrios noted the range is due to potential changes in the pace of hiring and additional costs that could be incurred when the Network actually launches.
* Vince was asked about the timeline and the announcement of distribution partners for the network, and he said he expects three months, maybe even less. He was also asked about profitability numbers this year, to which Vince said they are looking at profitability numbers over a couple of years.
* A caller asked how many subscribers they need for the network, and then Barrios quickly jumped in and said they weren’t going to answer questions like that, because they are still looking at several models.
* The next caller asked about their content library and how much as been digitized. Barrios said that they have around 100,000 hours in the library and they have digitized roughly 30,000 hours.
* Another caller asked whether the company would ever consider a stock buyback program. Barrios said they came to the conclusion that they want to focus on dividend policy, noting that, “Right now we don’t really see buyback as part of a return to capital strategy.”
* The final caller asked about the Youtube agreement and Barrios said they previously received a cut of the advertising revenue. He then said Youtube announced that they are paying for exclusive content, so they get a licensing fee and a cut of the upside advertising.