WWE announced record revenues of over $1 billion during its Q4 2021 and annual earnings on a February 3, 2022 conference call.
WWE Chairman and CEO, Vincent K. McMahon, President and Chief Revenue Officer, Nick Khan, Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon, and Chief Financial & Administrative Officer, Frank A. Riddick, were all announced to appear on the call.
WWE corporate had no shortage of headlines during a year where more than 80 WWE Superstars were released from their contracts in addition to steep front-office cuts as the promotion sought cost-cutting and profitability. WWE’s business strategy since Nick Khan became its Chief Revenue Officer has led to ubiquitous speculation of a possible sale. Khan, who recently inked an international distribution deal with Disney, recently confirmed that WWE has taken calls about a potential sale, though he continues to insist the promotion is not actively seeking a sale.
“If it once was a mom-and-pop shop, Vince certainly didn’t believe it was anymore,” Khan told John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal.
“Part of what I believe he was looking for in bringing in someone from the outside was to make sure the community at large didn’t treat it that way. We believe we’re a global content company.”
Despite record revenues and increased speculation of a sale, WWE’s share price remains stagnant, closing at $47.81 on Wednesday. This was the lowest closing price since December 22, 2021.
WWE Q4 2021 Highlights
- Revenue increased 30% to $310.3 million
- Operating income increased 131% to $83.6 million
- Adjusted Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization (OIBDA) increased 90% to $97.2 million
- Returned capital to shareholders totaling $59.0 million, including share repurchases and dividends paid
MORE FOR YOU
WWE Full Year 2021 Highlights
- Revenue increased 12% to $1.095 billion, the highest in the Company’s history
- Operating income increased 24% to $259.0 million
- Adjusted OIBDA1 increased 14% to a record $327.1 million
- Launched WWE Network content on Peacock, NBCU’s streaming service in the U.S., providing a larger audience and increasing viewership for WWE’s premium live shows, original series, and vast library
After brief opening remarks by Vince McMahon, WWE Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan discussed 2021 Peacock numbers compared to pre-pandemic 2019 numbers on the WWE Network.
July’s Money in the Bank viewership was 25% higher than WWE Network in 2019. For August’s SummerSlam, Peacock viewership was over 30% higher than SummerSlam in 2019. For September’s Extreme Rules, Peacock viewership was 20% higher than 2019. For October 2021’s Crown Jewel, Peacock viewership was up 75% compared to 2019. For Survivor Series, viewership on Peacock was almost 25% higher than 2019.
Royal Rumble’s viewership in 2022 was 45% higher than the Royal Rumble on Peacock in 2020. The 2022 Royal Rumble in St. Louis drew the second-highest gate in Royal Rumble history.
Khan said 3.5 million Peacock subscribers have watched the WWE product. Khan stated WWE has a dozen scripted and unscripted content sold, and WWE will announce these deals soon.
Khan announced WWE-branded lottery tickets and also announced WWE has expanded its partnership with Mattel, which has spanned the past decade.
Khan talked up the success of WWE Day 1, which not only was sold out but carried viewership 15% greater than any other live event in WWE history. He also discussed WWE’s partnership with celebrities Bad Bunny (whom Stephanie McMahon referred to as a “part-time WWE Superstar”) and Johnny Knoxville.
Khan described events, like the upcoming Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as “key revenue drivers” for WWE, and WWE anticipates producing more international events in the future.
Khan noted massive rights deals from Paramount+, Amazon, ESPN+, Hulu and NBCU. Khan added that he feels it’s “just a matter of time” before Netflix and Apple ink rights deals of their own, and anticipates an increase for WWE’s global media rights in light of the current climate.
Stephanie McMahon mentioned Sasha Banks’ appearance during the cold open of the College Football National Championship, which was watched by more than 22 million people. She also talked up Drew McIntyre’s appearance at the MTV European Music Awards and Big E’s appearance in the cold open of the heavyweight championship bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. In addition, McMahon noted Sami Zayn’s recent interactions with Johnny Knoxville, who recently appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote his appearance at the Royal Rumble.
Stephanie McMahon talked up WWE’s NIL program, and how it is targeting athletes who also have sizable TikTok followings. McMahon noted 88% of WWE’s audience identifies as gamers and plans to use its gaming partnerships to continue to engage with its audience.
WWE Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Frank A. Riddick broke down WWE’s 2021 business numbers and stated WWE anticipates more record revenues in 2022.
WWE Earnings Q&A Highlights
Curry Baker of Guggenheim Securities inquired about WWE’s monetization opportunities. Stephanie McMahon said there’s no reason WWE shouldn’t be in the hundreds of millions when it comes to quarterly revenue, and it plans to continue monetizing its talent as influencers in addition to WWE IP.
A representative from Morgan Stanley asked whether or not WWE is exploring the Metaverse, and Stephanie McMahon responded by saying WWE is “absolutely” exploring the Metaverse by doing its due diligence and meeting with as many partners as they can. This was described as something WWE is actively involved in and investigation.
A representative from Lightshed Partners asked about how WWE feels about a Raw renewal. Nick Khan stated he feels as good about Raw’s TV rights as he felt about the WWE’s TV rights years ago ahead of its landmark billion-dollar deals.