WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon, Chief Strategy & Financial Officer George Barrios and SVP of Financial Planning & Investor Relations Michael Weitz hosted a conference call this morning to discuss the 2013 financial results. Here are highlights:
* Vince said everything in the results were in line with expectations. Vince called WWE’s social media growth extraordinary. He talked about a lot of WWE’s new projects and said they are moving forward.
* Vince said they are out in the marketplace for the first time in a long time as far as TV rights fees goes. They’re looking to finish negotiations in late April or soon after.
* They are really excited about the WWE Network going live on Monday. Regarding pay-per-views, Vince says most standard providers have agreed to carry WrestleMania XXX and after that it will be on an event-by-event basis.
* Barrios talked about how they’ve been testing the Network on different platforms in preparation of the launch.
* Barrios said they are indeed in negotiations with other networks for TV rights fees. They’re also having similar discussions in India.
* As of today, WWE says they reach more than 260 million followers across social media – a 90% increase from the year before.
* They are really happy with the success of Total Divas.
* Despite a 4th quarter drop, WWE’s overall toy sales were up for the year. WWE has the #2 best selling action figure property in the US.
* They believe that a fully distributed WWE Network can attract between 2 and 3 million subscribers.
* WWE expects a $12-$15 million first quarter loss this year due to everything that comes with the launch of the Network.
* WWE’s first report on the number of Network subscribers will come the Monday after WrestleMania XXX.
* Barrios admitted they monitor social media chatter very closely, at least when it comes to feedback on the Network.
* They spent around $12 million in 2013 preparing for the Network.
* WWE is confident about the value their TV product brings and are optimistic about the TV rights fees negotiations.
* An investor asked about CM Punk. Vince said: “He’s taking a sabbatical, let’s just put it that way.”
* Most providers have agreed to carry WWE pay-per-views through WrestleMania XXX but Barrios wouldn’t elaborate. He said they have about 85% coverage of US households.