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WWE BIZ NEWS: TV negotiations update, when will WWE release Network subscribers info?, exec tells USA Network who made them successful, UFC, talent roster, more

Mar 12, 2014 - 2:12:43 PM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

WWE_Wide_24.png



WWE financial executive George Barrios provided the latest WWE business updates during a presentation at the 26th annual ROTH Conference Monday in California:

TV Business

Barrios confirmed that WWE hopes to announce a new domestic TV partner by the end of April/early May. Barrios was quick to follow up: "Or, continuing on with our current partner," which would be USA Network. The announcement is scheduled to be made around the time of WWE's next quarterly conference call.

At the beginning of the presentation, Barrios said with some weight behind it: "USA has been the #1 network for 29 straight quarters. And, it's because of Raw," then paused to let his statement sink in.

Barrios emphasized that WWE's main goal with the TV contract negotiations - besides doubling or tripling current revenue - is improving the value of their ratings points. Barrios put the value of WWE's TV programming at the same level as the NFL, NBA, and MLB, but said they "sit last in line" in terms of revenue-per-ratings points.

During a Q&A session, Barrios described Raw and Smackdown ratings as "relatively flat" compared to recent years. He put a positive spin on that answer by saying "flat is up" because of the over-saturated TV market and new distribution methods. Barrios labeled "flat" and "90 percent live viewing" as a "big asset" for TV partners.

One item of contention for TV partners is access to Raw and Smackdown. Barrios acknowledged that potential partners want a bigger window for Raw and SD to be exclusive to their TV channel(s), while WWE wants a shorter window to be able to put their top shows on-demand on WWE Network soon after the original airings on TV.

WWE Network

Barrios talked extensively about the Network launch. Barrios confirmed that WWE will announce the initial number of domestic Network subscribers on April 7, the day after WrestleMania.

Barrios emphasized the Network as a "10-year platform." Short-term, WWE wants to get the Network off the ground domestically, and long-term, they want to keep rolling out tape library footage along with new content, while launching internationally.

Domestically, WWE needs one million subscribers to break even. He added that WWE will need 250,000 international subscribers to break even. After launching in English-speaking international markets, Barrios said WWE's goal is to translate and subtitle content into other languages for Network distribution by 2016/2017.

Barrios also emphasized that WWE does not want to "just break even" on the Network, but use it to transform their business. A key will be reaching "at least a portion" of 21 million lapsed WWE fans.

Barrios added that WWE made 1,500 hours of tape library footage available at launch, which represents 1.5 percent of their approximately 100,000 hours of library footage.

Other Topics

- During the Q&A, Barrios was asked to assess WWE's current talent roster. Barrios said it's "somewhere in the middle of a trough and a peak," then offered a positive spin that it's "going up."

Barrios emphasized recent WrestleMania business pitches that "a lot of new talent" will be making their Mania debut this year.

- Barrios addressed the UFC topic in his pre-Q&A presentation. Barrios posed a rhetorical question about whether WWE is like UFC. "Nothing like it, really. If you don't believe the data, just go to the show and see it," Barrios said, then emphasized the "Disney on Ice" similarity.

- Barrios said WWE is looking at ways to monetize social media. Specifically, a gaming approach. Plus, integrating the Network into social media to create revenue.

[ LINK: Barrios's full presentation can be heard HERE ]


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