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WWE Q4 Earnings Call: Vince McMahon Not Present, Nick Khan Talks Rights Deals, More

February 2, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Vince McMahon WWE, Adnan Virk Image Credit: WWE

WWE had their Q4 financial results call on Wednesday with Nick Khan, Triple H, and Frank Riddick discussing their performance, their rights deals and the recent changes in management and more. Vince McMahon was not on the call. You can see a recap below:

* Khan opened the call by calling 2022 a record-setting year for the company, with $1.2 billion in revenue. Khan said they’re well-positioned for the future.

* Khan then went on to address the management changes in WWE, namely McMahon’s return. He said that they are looking at alternative strategies (aka possible sale) and said it’s still early in the review process, but that they plan to look at a wide range of possibilities and there’s no guarantee they will make a move. There will be no further statements made until they’re done with the process. He also acknowledged Stephanie McMahon’s exit, praising her for her work in the company and said they wouldn’t be where they now are without her including her return to serve as co-CEO until she stepped away.

* Getting into the financials, Khan noted record live gates for 20 cities for Raw and Smackdown in 2022 and put over the ratings for Raw XXX, which did the best numbers in three years. He noted that watch times for Raw and Smackdown hit all-time highs in Q4 and that Raw is up big in younger viewers despite the 18 – 34 TV viewing down as a whole.

* Khan said that the Royal Rumble had an audience jump of 52% from 2022 while Extreme Rules was up 26% and Survivor Series was up 46%, with the PLEs driving subscriptions for Peacock. Clash at the Castle set records for WWE in terms of international events in terms of viewership, the live gate and merchandise, and that 75% of those who attended came in from outside of Wales. The company helped drive local revenue with $12 million in restaurants and bar expeditures and 100% sell-outs in hotels. WWE is returning to London for Money in the Bank, and heading to Montreal this month for ELimination Chamber which will have over 12,000 in attendance. He noted that WWE will do premium experiences in Montreal with On Location and said they they are seeing a jump in those experiences in the US.

* Khan said that Extreme Rules jumped 62% in on-site merchandise for the show from last year, with a 76% rise in Survivor Series merch sales and a record for Royal Rumble for alll PPVs outside of Wrestlemania. He also put over WWE Shop, as well as their trading card deal.

* He went on to talk about WWE’s sponsorship deals, noting that the average spend is up 98% from 2022 and that they are integrating more with the content. He put over the Pitch Black Match and The Applebees Countdown Clock from the Royal Rumble, both of which earned them seven figures.

* Triple H then took over and said that their record numbers are thanks to the talent and writing teams, putting over Rhea Ripley’s Royal Rumble win as well as the returns of Pat McAfee, Logan Paul, and Cody Rhodes at the Rumble. He noted that they will have many compelling moments going forward and praised the ratings, including the demo rating for Raw XXX.

* He went on to talk about the social media numbers and said WWE passed 16 billion views in 2022, with a deal for localized social media accounts for talent in international markets. He also put over The Bump for hitting its 200th episode and said the viral clip of Logan Paul’s cell phone elbowdrop onto Roman Reigns had over 40 million views.

* Triple H said that they are continuing to invest in recruitment including their NIL program and praised the Campus Rush tour. A spring recruitment tour will be announced. He also talked about the Africa WWE Superstar search, which will feature a multi-day tryout in Nigeria. They will be announcing how fans can watch it.

* Triple H briefly touched on the Hulu series for Montez Ford & Bianca Belair, noting that it is in production, and then said that it is great having Vince McMahon around, calling him a great asset for the company.

* Frank Riddick then took over and ran through the financial results, which you can see here. It was noted that the Q4 results feature $2.3 million in costs related to the investigation into Vince McMahon, and that there may be additional costs announced.

* It was added that Vince will personally pay for the announced settlement with Rita Chatterton.

* It was noted that their deal with USA Network for NXT expires in September of this year.

* The line was opened for questions at this point. The first question was about whether Vince wants to stay on after a potential transaction, and Khan said Vince will do what’s best for shareholder value and it’s not about what role Vince will have. They want a partner in terms of their media business and not just someone with lots of money; they want someone who will know what to do with the media rights and are looking at who can accelerate their business and provide the best value for shareholders.

* Asked about the rise in production costs, Frank Riddick chimed in and said it was related to investments and expanding their talent pool to make the shows stand out more. He added that the investments will pay off in the new rights deals.

* The next question was about the rise in interest in major events, and Khan said it started with Stephanie McMahon saying “Yes” instead of “Maybe,” which led to a sponsorship match with Pepsi for the Pitch Black match. It was noted that they are willing to monetize the ring, ring posts and such.

* The next question asked was about why they’re looking to sell before their new TV deals, and it was said that they don’t want to make new deals that will possibly keep buyers away for a number of years. Doing it now lets them take potential sales offers and respect their current media partners.

* A caller asked about Raw and Smackdown ratings splitting and Khan said the NFL (Monday Night Football) being simulcast across different platforms had a lot to do with it (making it harder for Raw’s ratings). Khan said that Triple H and his team are working hard on Raw as well as Smackdown, and that their talent signings will pay off. It was added that NBC/Universal is very happy with the ratings rise of NXT, and that NXT doesn’t have the same internal expectations as Raw or Smackdown. Khan said that any potential buyer would respect NBC and FOX’s media rights and they would make sure of that. New talks on rights deals will begin after WrestleMania.

* Asked about the trends for the company in India, Khan noted that they hope for the Sony-Z merger is approved in April and said that their growth was hurt in India, but that when the merger is complete they are planning to do a live event in the country.

* It was noted that they are looking at how to further monetize their talent IP and that they are looking at investing in a new Performance Center in addition to the launch of NXT Europe.

* A caller asked about whether it’s important to have NXT on the same network as Raw or Smackdown and Khan said they’re happy with their partnership with NBC/Universal. He noted that if they do a PLE on Saturday, you get a lot of promotion for Raw and Smackdown. It was noted that when they were pre-empted to Syfy with Raw last year for the Olympics, 90% of the audience carried over and they’re happy with that.

* The final call asked about the importance of traditional TV and it was acknowledged that while important, it has lost some from where it used to be. Peacock’s viewing numbers have a significant chunk that come from mobile devices. Khan noted that they have a show on broadcast TV, a show on basic cable (two actually) and premium shows on Peacock, and that strategy has worked for them.