World Wrestling Entertainment is reeling further after the sports entertainment company revealed that both ticket sales and WWE Network subscribers had fallen in its latest financial report.
The disappointing financial news follows last week’s sudden departure of co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson from the company, which sent WWE stock prices tumbling. Share prices fell by more than 20 per cent following those executive shifts, and then dropped another 15 per cent at the opening of the US stock market on February 6.
WWE stock is now trading below $43 per share, down by a third from just a week ago.
WWE is now looking for a permanent chief financial officer and chief revenue officer. Long-time board member Frank Riddick has been named interim CFO.
In its financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year of 2019, WWE reported record revenues of $960.4m, up three per cent from the prior year due to new television deals.
However, growth was stunted by lower live event ticket sales (56 fewer events and lower average attendance), a decline in WWE Network subscription revenue, the absence of Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook Watch, as well as lower consumer product sales, particularly the WWE 2K20 video game.
WWE Network’s average paid subscribers dropped 10 per cent to 1.42m, slightly lower than the company’s 1.43m projection. WWE now says it is looking to reshape the WWE Network going forward to help bolster its financial fortunes. But growth outlook for the streaming service remains murky, as the company said in its earning report that the paid subscriber count for the first quarter of this year is only targeted at 1.47m.
Meanwhile, other sports-related streaming platforms are experiencing much stronger growth rates.
Both Barrios and Wilson played key roles in helping WWE become an industry leader in several areas around the property’s digital and social media efforts, including the development of the now six-year-old WWE Network, one of the US sports industry’s first dedicated over-the-top video services.
Projecting its 2020 business outlook, WWE said in a statement: “Management believes that WWE is well positioned to take advantage of significant growth opportunities. The Company is pursuing several strategic initiatives that could increase the monetization of its content in 2020 and/ or subsequent years. These include distribution of content in the Middle East and India as well as the evaluation of strategic alternatives for the Company’s direct-to-consumer service, WWE Network.”
The company will discuss the financial results with analysts later on February 6.
“During the fourth quarter, we expanded the reach of WWE’s live programming and further engaged with diverse audiences across platforms and formats,” said Vince McMahon, WWE chairman and chief executive officer. “We believe the value of live sports will continue to increase, particularly in today’s evolving media landscape, and we are well positioned to take advantage of this trend to maximize the value of our content.”