WWE® finished 2019 with a TKO, reporting total revenue of $322.8 million, an 18% increase year-over-year and the highest quarterly revenue total in the history of the company. Revenue for the full year 2019 was $960.4 million, also a company record. Operating income for the quarter increased 87% to $99.8 million, and adjusted OIBDA also grew 67% to a quarterly record of $107.7 million. Operating income for the year was $116.5 million, and adjusted OIBDA was $180.0 million, a record for the third year in a row.
“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 CEO, in a February 6 news release. “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.”
Other highlights from the earnings report include the following:
- Media revenue was the most significant at $264.4 million, a 29% increase.
- Revenue for live events was down $27.4 million because of fewer events, lower ticket sales, and the absence of Super Show-Down a big event in Australia.
- WWE Network’s average paid subscribers decreased 10% to approximately 1.42 million due to fewer new subscribers earlier in the year. The company expects to increase to 1.47 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020.
- For the quarter, net income was $69.3 million, $0.78 per diluted share, compared to $41.2 million, or $0.46 per diluted share.
- For the full year 2019, net income was $77.1 million, or $0.85 per diluted share, down from $99.6 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, in 2018.
- Cash flow from operations was $119.4 million, nearly double the $65.2 million in Q4 2018.
- SmackDown moved to FOX Broadcast, increasing viewership by 20% year-over-year.
- SmackDown was the highest rated show on USA Network.
- Digital engagement via view grew 10% to 34.5 billion. Hours watched increased to 7% to close to 1.3 billion on digital and social platforms.
Frank Riddick, interim CFO, commented on the company’s strategic plans for 2020.
“As we work to strengthen engagement in 2020, we are pursuing several strategic initiatives that could increase the monetization of our content, including the distribution of content in the Middle East and India as well as strategic alternatives for our direct-to-consumer service, WWE Network,” said Riddick.
“Excluding the potential impact of these initiatives, we expect significant revenue growth based on the full year impact of our new content distribution agreements in the U.S. and anticipate Adjusted OIBDA of $250 million to $300 million. Management believes it has the potential to exceed this range but is unable to provide additional guidance at this time,” Riddick added.
Though subscriptions to the WWE Network are down, overall WWE had a solid fourth quarter and full year 2019. They reported record revenue and some new strategic initiatives which are sure to carry successfully into the new year. Looking specifically at subscriptions, the WWE Network was one of the early adopters of the OTT model, and it did quite well initially. However, moving to a different platform last summer caused some heartburn for the company, and that likely contributed to the loss of subscribers. Adding a free tier of service will help. If the company continues to focus on exclusive, quality content, they will eventually be able to overcome their 2019 subscription stumbling blocks.