It’s been a good week for the WWE. Subsciptions for their online streaming network surpassed the one million mark and the stock surged 20%. But all is not well in Vince McMahon’s kingdom according to Brian”the barber” Sozzi of Belus Capital Advisors.
Sozzi says that the key one million mark only came about because of free promos, not a proven ability to attract paying customers.
Sozzi has three reasons the WWE is still Legion of Doomed, but Yahoo Finance's Jeff Macke remains unconvinced. Check out their (verbal) throwdown is below and in the video above and let us know who's side you're on in the comments below.
Hulk Hogan is 61-years-old. Ric Flair is 65. Both have recently been brought back in front of the camera in an attempt to bring back the over 30 set to the WWE fold.
But Sozzi points out that they will continue to age and have to end their on-camera days. When that happens, that key over-30 demo will stop watching since they don't connect to the new set of WWE Superstars.
Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke disagrees, arguing that the WWE is programming for both people like him and his 10 year old son. “He likes the young guys and I like the old guys. It’s the circle of life.”
Sozzi, unrelenting as a title belt match, argues back that in this new media landscape WWE is no longer the only cool thing out there for pre-teen boys. “Right now WWE is competing with a lot of eyeballs.”
“They’re taking a lot of risks… to I guess keep the matches non-repetitive,” Sozzi argues. Those risks could lead to injuries. In fact, they already have. “One big one has been Daniel Bryan. He was out for almost a year,” Sozzi notes. “If your most popular wrestler is not on camera, you’re losing eyeballs.”
Those injuries may be part of the reason attendance is down at live WWE events and ticket prices have followed.
Macke says WWE CEO Vince McMahon is the league's biggest asset. As a wrestler, promoter, announcer and more, McMahon is seen as the heart and soul of the empire. Sozzi, though, says that makes him a huge liability. “If Vince McMahon were to drop dead today, who steps in?” Sozzi wonder.
Wrestler turned executive (and Vince McMahon’s son-in-law) Paul Michael Levesque, better known in the ring as Triple H, is running creative. Would he step in?
McMahon’s daughter and Levesque’s wife Stephanie is in charge of brand management. Does she get the call-up?
“Ultimately everything you see on TV each week is the byproduct of Vince McMahon,” Sozzi notes. “He remains very in the trenches week to week and if you pull him out...what happens to the company longer term?”
They key to renewed success, Sozzi thinks, is getting live attendance and ticket sales back. That of course means McMahon staying sharp and solving the injury problem. Perhaps then subscriptions to the network would grow organically and aging talent would be less of a problem.
For the time being at least, investors don’t seem to care. A million subs is a million subs and the stock moved higher accordingly.