Here are the highlights from today’s WWE Q4 conference call, featuring WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and WWE Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios…
* Vince McMahon said that the results for the fourth quarter exceeded expectations and guidance. He was very happy about increases in Raw and Smackdown viewership, social media followers, and hyped that their Youtube views reached 3.9 billion. He discussed reaching the one million-subscriber count for WWE Network, mentioning the success of the free month for new subscribers campaign in November and said they hope to receive similar results for the free month in February.
* George Barrios ran through the numbers, stating that the WWE Network has reached 1.4 million unique subscribers (though not all of them are active). He said that roughly 70 percent of those who signed up for the free month in November were kept as paid subscribers in January.
* UK and Ireland was their second largest area of subscribers for the Network almost overnight.
* Barrios discussed the WWE Network expansion in Canada and the new deal in the Middle East. They hope to have access in all of Canada in time for WrestleMania 31.
* They are excited about the programming for the WWE Network, noting that more live programming, interviews, animation, and short form programming would be added. The VOD library is now over 2,700 hours of the over 100,000 hours WWE has in their library
* Barrios felt that the company was when it came to growing the company’s revenues in 2014, specifically praising Total Divas, animated television and DVD movies, video, online app, and mobile games.
* Both Raw and Smackdown are up two percent in the ratings for the quarter.
* We open the phone lines, which leads to Barrios and his famed “I don’t want to go into specifics” a lot.
* Barrios was asked about what markets have the biggest upside for the Network. Barrios didn’t want to make predictions, but praised the UK and Ireland.
* They have no definitive plans on how they will do free months in the future. He did note that they have measures in place to protect from people signing up over and over for free.
* They plan to remain on PPV, and that the cable providers set those prices for the shows.
* Someone that claims to be an analyst asked if WM 31 would be on the Network and asked when the Network would move to a month-to-month model. Seriously.
* The next caller asked what the company could do to prevent Network subscribers from leaving after WrestleMania 31. Barrios said that they need to deliver incredible value in the content and the experience and they are working extremely hard on that. This includes new content that they are planning, but cannot discuss at this time.
* Barrios says that NXT resonates well with viewers, and they are impressed when it trends on Titter when domestically it is only on the Network.
* Barrios was asked about the comparison between the WWE and UFC audiences. Barrios said they are about multi-generational family viewing and that’s fundamentally different from MMA audiences.
* They are budgeting $20-$30 million for feature films in 2015.
* Barrios was asked about advertising revenues for the WWE Network. He didn’t want to get into specifics.
* Barrios heavily praised the near 4 billion Youtube views, and feels that people are ravenous for WWE content.
* Next Barrios was asked for figures on how much of the subscriber growth was based on people understanding what an OTT service. He said that there is room for improvement, and that it takes time for complete awareness of anything, including the WWE Network.
* The new Network deal in the Middle East is similar in structure to the Rogers Canada deal.
* Vince says that the #CancelWWENetwork was good for them, it caused controversy and was the gesture of a vocal minority. “That’s good for WWE. It created controversy. Really it was a gesture by some vocal minority because of the creative … Santa Claus didn’t come on that PPV.”
* Barrios is asked about a potential WWE subscription radio station for SiriusXM. Barrios says that they have a lot of ideas, and that it has been considered.
* When asked about the WWE Studios division, Barrios discussed the impairment on Oculus. Barrios felt that the impairment was what you would expect and that the film did about what they expected.