It’s only fair to say America loves its showbiz. Everything they do is centred around maximizing the entertainment value for its events, and one source of entertainment to millions of Americans and even many around the world is World Wrestling Entertainment. Previously known as the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, it lost a long battle with the World Wide Fund for Nature, an environmental agency, which sued the wrestling organization for using its initials.
WWE has only grown in leaps and bounds since then, as they have milked entertainment to continue to provide talking points for millions of fans all over the world. Their wrestlers have become worldwide celebrities, but it is pertinent to note that while the fighting is real, most of the acts performed on fight night are storyline-driven, scripted, and partially choreographed matches.
While it is an entertainment hotbed, it remains one of the biggest businesses in sports. The WWE reported figures of $1billion in revenue last year. In the company’s 42-year history, that was the highest annual total revenue, which was a 12% increase, from the previous year. Before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) last year, they finished the year with $327 million in operating income. They also returned more than $200 million in capital to shareholders through share repurchase and dividends.
How big is the WWE?
For one to truly understand how big the WWE is, we can take a look at their share performance. For more than 20 years, the share price had idled in and around the mid-20s, but in the last five years, the price has tripled, rising to around $62.44, which was more than twice its price at the peak of the March 2020 pandemic.
They keep signing deals
CEO, Vince McMahon, bought the company from his father in 1982 and has run it ever since. He hired Nick Khan last year as the company’s president, an astute move, given that he led the television division at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). His arrival has seen an immediate impact, with the WWE shutting down its own streaming network, which had about 1.1 million subscribers. They signed a deal worth around $1b with NBC’s Peacock.
- This deal with Peacock tripled their subscriber viewership and priced at $9.99 a month, it is a great deal for fans. By subscribing, they enjoy premium entertainment content as well as access to the platform’s entire entertainment library for free. They have also signed a deal with Panini to provide exclusive WWE trading cards while they also signed a deal to launch an NFT marketplace using their digital IP, with Blockchain Creative Labs.
- The WWE signed a big licensing deal with Fanatics, which is part of their pivot to a new strategy for premium live events. This focuses on staging events in very large stadiums rather than small venues. This would increase their gate revenue at marquee events like SummerSlam to around $5m from $1.5m, which represents a 3-4 increase.
Social Media is very key to their growth
WWE is one of the world’s largest digital sports properties, and its social media strategy seems to be paying off. They have more than 1 billion social media followers in total, which is a very important metric to have when it comes to partnering with brands.
- Facebook: 500 million
- Instagram: 226 million
- Twitter: 221 million
- YouTube: 87 million
- TikTok: 16 million
The WrestleMania angle
Last week, nearly 200,000 from 47 countries descended on Arlington, Texas for the first two-day WrestleMania event in history. The event was hosted at the 80,000-capacity Cowboy’s Stadium, with the Dallas Sports Commission saying that the event was projected to generate an excess of $200million for the local economy.
It is currently one of the biggest annual events in American sports, but the WWE is trying to make more from content. They recently signed a licensing deal with Disney’s HotStar back in January. This deal will see the WWE spread its tentacles to millions of fans in the Asia-Pacific region.
They want to be like Marvel
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the WWE is starting to produce fictionalized TV shows. They “generate more revenue outside of the wrestling ring and capitalize on streaming services’ growing hunger for fresh content.”
WWE currently owns some of the world’s most premium and unique IP, and they can monetize them because their unique cast of superstars coupled with the supply and demand equation shifting content prices, will also command a premium for their content prices.