The company that sensationalizes pain seemed to feel a lot of it in Q2: The bold $9.99 a month streaming video venture that World Wrestling Entertainment launched in February only had 700,000 subscribers at the end of June, it says today. That’s half of the 1.4M that the company said in May it needs to offset lost pay-per-view TV sales, much of it from fans watching online. The growth rate is nothing to brag about. WWE Network only added 33,000 subs in Q2. In April the company boasted that it was “well on its way to reaching its goal of 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014.”
Now it’s bracing for the point in a few weeks — after SummerSlam on August 17 — when initial subs’ six-month commitment expires. SummerSlam “will likely be the biggest draw through the remainder of the year,” Benchmark Co’s Mike Hickey observed yesterday. As a result, “We suspect subscribers will wrestle with the decision to immediately renew their six month subscription.”
So why is the stock up 7.9% today? Some investors believe that WWE’s been beat up enough; even with today’s uptick, shares are down 36% over the last three months. And WWE employees are sharing some of the pain. The company says it will slash its staff by 7%, contributing to a $30M improvement in its cash flow outlook for this year.
The Q2 numbers also weren’t as bad as analysts expected. Revenues at $156.3M, +2.6% from last year, came close to projections for $156.8M. The net loss, at 14.5M vs … Read More »
So which films and TV shows got the biggest bump to their social-media accounts during Comic-Con? The Deadline Team already has delivered its verdict on Comic-Con’s big winners (and yawners) overall. And it’s a challenge to be definitive with social media given the dozens of participating properties and connected stars, behind-the-camera notables, superfans and the like.
That said, social-media consulting firm RelishMIX spotted five entertainment properties that hit social-media home runs over the long weekend, led by massively popular Comic-Con videos for Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Mad Max: Fury Road. The Simpsons and Family Guy jointly scored well too, according to RelishMIX’s compilation of who added the most followers/likes/views across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to their official and related accounts (see chart below).
HBO’s Thrones, already a social-media monster, commanded a truly royal 8.3 million views of its Comic-Con YouTube videos, led by a Season 4 blooper reel that RelishMIX CEO Marc Karzen called a “super video,” with nearly 7.4 million views since it posted just four days ago.
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In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom recap Upfronts Week in New York City as all the networks made their pre-season pitches to advertisers; the FCC approves the latest net neutrality proposal in a noisy meeting; and Tribune’s CEO criticizes the CW, one of his biggest business partners. They also check in on the status of that AT&T-DirecTV megadeal, which may be closer than once thought, while the WWE’s stock gets body-slammed as it grapples with the Street’s disappointment over its NBCU contract extension.
Deadline Big Media podcast 85 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 85 (.M4A version)
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Talk about a smack down: WWE shares tumbled about 44% this morning after the company disclosed disappointing terms for its new TV agreement — and laid out the potential risk of continuing losses as its new $9.99-a-month WWE Network online video service cannibalizes its pay-per-view business. The entertainment company says the value of its U.S., UK and Thailand TV agreements now comes to about $200M a year. That suggests a 50% increase in the licensing deal with NBCU unveiled yesterday to renew Monday Night Raw on USA Network and Friday Night SmackDown on Syfy says Benchmark Co analyst Mike Hickey — which is “meaningfully below the guided multiple of 2X to 3X.”
Related: NBCU & WWE Re-Up Multi-Year Partnership
Meanwhile, WWE didn’t update subscription numbers for the online service as it discussed its potential financial performance. That follows last month’s report showing lower-than-expected 667,287 subs — not including “potential failures to comply with subscription terms.” Hickey fears that the “limited visibility to where subscribers are currently tracking or where churn will ultimately settle” leaves investors with “an uncomfortable silence that will likely extend until early August.” Read More »
It’s a done deal. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and WWE today announced a multi-year partnership that will keep Monday Night Raw and SmackDown on USA Network and Syfy, respectively. The announcement was made today by Paul Levesque, WWE’s EVP Talent, Live Events & Creative, during NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s upfront presentation in New York. “USA Network President Chris McCumber, Syfy President Dave Howe and I are incredibly pleased to renew this strategic partnership with WWE,” said NBCU Cable Chairman Bonnie Hammer. “In today’s TV landscape, live event programming is an extraordinarily valuable asset, and WWE remains the only entertainment franchise that consistently delivers this on a 52-week-a-year basis. We look forward to bringing WWE’s action-packed and unique brand of drama to the wide audiences across our cable networks for many years to come.” Read More »
James Hellwig, aka The Ultimate Warrior, has died at age 54 after reportedly collapsing in Arizona. We don’t usually eulogize wrestlers, but this one makes me feel bad. I watched The Ultimate Warrior rise through what was then known as the WWF in the late 1980s and ’90s. This was before Vince McMahon was forced to clean up the “sport” a bit, and back when it was a dirty little secret that you pretty much had to be taking steroids if you wanted the fans to love you. This was because it was nearly impossible to keep that size when you were barnstorming across the country and getting in the ring with injuries several times per week, with scant time to get in the gym. From that standpoint, The Ultimate Warrior was scarily massive and ripped, the most muscular guy in the sport. That didn’t look so much like prime conditioning when he got in the ring, shook the ropes violently, and then he would get bright red and seem winded before the match began. He would fling his opponent around the ring a bit, pick them up and drop them and it would be over. I found myself worrying for his health even back then. The WWE just named him to its Hall of Fame on Monday night, and he leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
Some wrestling stars who became hulking stars during his era died earlier … Read More »
The stock price is down more than 20% in early trading after the company said that its new online video channel has 667,287 subs — not including “potential failures to comply with subscription terms.” Still, WWE Network is “well on its way to reaching its goal” of 1M subs by year end, the company says. Many investors expected better news after yesterday’s WrestleMania 30, which was offered both on cable and satellite pay-per-view and to subscribers who pay $9.99 a month for the streaming service. Benchmark Co analyst Mike Hickey warned on Friday that the subscription number might come in today between 500,000 and 800,000 — down from his original expectation for as much as 1M after the WrestleMania event. WWE’s stock price is still up about 40% since the beginning of 2014, but began to slip in late March, he noted, because “street expectations [for WWE Network subs] had exaggerated.” Although the network should reach the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordic countries by early 2015, the plans “would not immediately benefit from a massive entertainment event like WrestleMania in driving fan demand.”
UPDATE, 1:01 PM: People who want to subscribe to WWE Network should be able to do so now that the company’s technology partner, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, has worked through the launch-day crush. Demand for subscriptions “exceeded anything we have seen in 14 years of doing e-commerce,” MLBAM says.
Related: Q&A: MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman On WWE Network, More
PREVIOUS, 11:35 AM: The new $9.99-a-month online video network has been “unable to process most orders since 9 AM,” the WWE says. It attributes the launch-day woes to its technology partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). It was “overwhelmed” by the demand for subscriptions and “has been working aggressively to resolve this issue.” WWE shares are down about 1.7% on a day when the overall market is up about 1%. It has a lot riding on the initiative. The company unveiled its online plans at the International CES electronics show in January. Expectations that the global Internet channel will be a hit with fans helped to drive a 46% increase in WWE’s market value so far in 2014, and recently hit record highs. CFO George Barrios told analysts last week that the network could attract as many as 3M subscribers and become a “major source of … Read More »
The company’s been talking for years about creating a network, but failed to excite cable and satellite distributors. So it now says it will make its WWE Network happen online as a subscription service that will cost $9.99 a month with a six-month commitment. Powered by MLB Advanced Media, the WWE programming will be available on conventional computers, and apps for Apple and Android devices, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and 4, and Roku — with Xbox One and some Smart TVs following this summer. Customers will be able to watch 12 monthly pay-per-view specials, 1,500 hours of shows from WWE’s library, and several new programs. The network “allows us to transform and reimagine how we deliver our premium live content and 24/7 programming directly to our fans around the world,” CEO Vince McMahon says. “WWE Network will provide transformative growth for our company and unprecedented value for our fans.” The company anticipates as many as 3M subscribers ”based on extensive consumer research and the value proposition for a network that reflects the inclusion of our pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania” and other programming. The company says that about 53% of TV households “have an affinity for WWE content.” If it’s estimate is correct, then it could help WWE generate as much as $350M in additional revenue and “incremental OIBDA [cash flow] between $50 million and $150 million at a ‘steady state.’” Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey is more cautious, saying that by charging $9.99 a month for PPV specials that cost $44.95 “will cut into WWE’s revenue in the short term” although the company could “make it up over time as the network’s subscriber base increases.” WWE shares have appreciated nearly 52% over the last three months, and are up about 1% today. Read More »
In the newly created role, Matthew Singerman will be responsible for the strategic development of content, including original, unscripted and scripted shows, scheduling of all programming and operations across all distribution platforms, including a potential WWE Network. He will report directly to WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. Singerman previously had senior level positions at Fox News Channel, TV Guide Network and Reelz Channel.
E! and WWE are adding six episodes to their new reality series Total Divas, the show tracking the in-ring and behind the scenes lives of pro lady wrestlers Natalya, the Bella Twins, and the Funkadactlys as well as their male WWE superstar counterparts and the network’s divas-in-training. Three episodes of the WWE and Bunim-Murray production have aired so far with the series debut hitting 1.3M viewers and last Sunday’s episode notching a series high 1.7M viewers. The initial episode run will have its summer finale on September 15, with the newly added six episodes returning this fall on November 17 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Related: WWE’s ‘Total Divas’ Debut Scores For E!
The web portal today announced a slate of new programming initiatives during its upfront-style NewFront event. Those include a new network partnership with WWE launching a new Yahoo WWE online hub hosting exclusive Monday Night Raw pre-show content, two new weekly 50-episode series per year, exclusive live events, archival content, and current show clips launching this summer. Yahoo will also host digital-only versions of ABC News’ World News Behind The Headlines, Nightline Online, GMA Live, and CNBC’s Talking Numbers. New comedy shows in Yahoo’s fall comedy lineup include Principato-Young Entertainment‘s Tiny Commando with Ed Helms, Zachary Levi and Gillian Jacobs; the Morgan Spurlock & John Stamos-exec produced Losing Your Virginity With John Stamos celeb interview show; and We Need Help with Cheryl Hines and Rachael Harris, produced by Principato-Young and Steve Carr and directed by Hines. Episodes from Yahoo’s fall comedy lineup will be released at once a la Netflix’s “binge viewing” strategy. Fashion Recipe, Cinema & Spice, and an unnamed grilling show were named to Yahoo’s new lifestyle programming. A new Saturday Night Live deal distributing current-season clips and archival clips beginning September 1 was announced last week. Below are descriptions of Yahoo’s comedy lineup:
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UPDATE 11:20 PM: Here’s the latest on Jerry Lawler from WWE.
“Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered a heart attack while commentating during last night’s broadcast of Monday Night Raw in Montreal. We are hopeful Jerry makes a full recovery and returns to WWE in the near future. Our thoughts are with Jerry and his family.”
PREVIOUS: Here’s a statement from a WWE spokesman.
The WWE Hall of Famer collapsed at the announcers’ table and was tended to in the locker room area by WWE medical staff. Lawler was then taken from the arena to a medical facility in Montreal. He is stable and breathing on his own.
It happened just after 10 PM EDT during a live telecast of Monday Night Raw. Fellow WWE announcer Michael Cole told viewers watching on television that the incident was “not part of the show”. Jerry Lawler has won 168 wrestling championships in his 42-year career.