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Edited Transcript of WWE earnings conference call or presentation 25-Jul-19 3:00pm GMT

Q2 2019 World Wrestling Entertainment Inc Earnings Call

STAMFORD Nov 23, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* George A. Barrios

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director

* Michael Weitz

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - SVP of IR

* Michelle D. Wilson

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director

* Vincent K. McMahon

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Alan Steven Gould

Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD

* Benjamin Daniel Swinburne

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD

* Curry Michael Baker

Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Analyst

* David Karnovsky

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst

* Eric Isaac Katz

Wolfe Research, LLC - Research Analyst

* Eric Owen Handler

MKM Partners LLC, Research Division - MD, Sector Head & Senior Analyst

* Laura Anne Martin

Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Marci Lynn Walner Ryvicker

Wolfe Research, LLC - MD of Equity Research & Senior Equity Analyst

* Vasily Karasyov

Cannonball Research, LLC - Founder

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Hello, and welcome to the webcast entitled WWE second quarter earnings. We have just a few announcements before we begin. (Operator Instructions) Today's call is being recorded.

I'll now turn the call over to Michael Weitz, SVP, Financial Planning and Investor Relations. Please go ahead, sir.

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Michael Weitz, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - SVP of IR [2]

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Thank you, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to WWE's Second Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. Leading today's discussion are Vince McMahon, our Chairman and CEO; as well as George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, our Co-Presidents. Their remarks will be followed by a Q&A session.

We issued our earnings release earlier this morning and have posted the release, our earnings presentation and other supporting materials on our website, corporate.wwe.com/investors. Today's discussion will include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements reflect our current views, are based on various assumptions and are subject to risks and uncertainties disclosed in our SEC filings. Actual results may differ materially and undue reliance should not be placed on them. Additionally, the matters we will be discussing today may include non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliation of non-GAAP to GAAP information is set forth in our earnings release and presentation which are available on our website. Finally, as a reminder, today's conference call is being recorded, and a replay will be available on our website later today.

At this time, it's my privilege to turn the call over to Vince.

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [3]

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Good morning, everyone. As you know, our revenue is $269 million. It is what it is. We have completed our content distribution agreements in BT Sport in the U.K.; Latin America, Fox Sports; and in China, PP Sports. We're excited about that. Excited we can influence or they can influence as well, the ability to do localized content in addition to enhance the content that they currently have in a more in-depth capacity. And -- pardon me, so it's another way and a deeper way of reaching our audience and a new audience as well. Obviously, there's India and MENA to do, and we are going to be close to announcing those deals very soon.

There is improvement with the key metrics over the quarter with television ratings, live event and digital consumption. One of the things that we've done is hire 2 executive directors, 1 for Raw and 1 for SmackDown. And in doing so, it allows me to look at a longer-range story, arc standpoint and also spend more time on talent development and not get into the weeds as much as we had to do in the past. That is a really, really good thing for a long-term as well as short-term, actually, we've seen a big result already.

In addition to that, we're excited about our future, particularly on Fox when first week in October, we debut there. It's really going to be awesome. As you know, Fox broadcast reaches about 33% more homes in where we are with U.S.A. So we're anxious to -- and great promoters. And it's more of a -- notwithstanding public companies, but it's more of a family-type situation in which we do very well in notwithstanding our relationship again with NBCU, which is a deeper relationship as well.

So in any event, we're really excited about our future in terms of where we're just so much like another kick-off force. That's about all I have to say, George.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [4]

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Thanks, Vince, and thanks, everyone, for joining us today for a review of our Q2 financial performance, our progress on key strategic initiatives and our business outlook.

During the quarter, we achieved adjusted OIBDA of $34.6 million, which exceeded our guidance, primarily due to enhanced revenue recognized in conjunction with our recent event in Saudi Arabia. That enhanced revenue is expected to reverse in connection with an anticipated fourth quarter event in that country.

We attained our second quarter financial results. We made important progress on key strategic initiatives. As Vince mentioned, we completed content distribution agreements in the U.K., Latin America and China to prepare for the next phase of our WWE Network which initiated just yesterday, and we achieved improvement in our engagement metrics since April.

As a reminder, in our first quarter earnings call, we discussed our belief that our metrics were negatively impacted by the absence of several talent. I'd like to provide an update on these important measures before discussing our content distribution or the evolution of WWE Network.

As shown on Page 3 of the presentation, domestic TV ratings for Raw, which declined 14% in the first quarter 2019, improved to a year-over-year decline of 11% in June and that occurred despite a tough comparison to Game 5 of the NBA championship on June 10. Similarly, domestic TV ratings for SmackDown, which declined 13% in the first quarter, improved to a 7% decline in June, matching the aggregate ratings performance of the top 25 cable networks. In addition, domestic TV ratings for Raw and SmackDown showed steady improvement throughout the quarter from April to June, with June showing the best performance. You should also note that Raw's TV ratings for the first 4 weeks in July through July 22 reflect an increase of 1% year-over-year, and this includes the ratings for the RAW Reunion special this past Monday, which were up 15% on a year-over-year basis. For the same 4 week period in July, SmackDown's TV ratings improved to a 2% year-over-year decline.

Consumption of WWE content across digital platforms, as measured by the number of views, rose from a year-over-year increase of 15% in the first quarter to growth of 38%. Finally, average attendance at the company's Live Events in North America, which declined 12% in the first quarter, improved to a decline of 4% in June and was down 2% for the second quarter. We believe these favorable developments stem from the return of our talent as well as the emergence of new story lines and superstars following the successful WrestleMania. As we emphasized last quarter, we remain very excited about the debut of SmackDown Live on Fox on October 4 which marks the first time that WWE will be available live 52 weeks a year on one of the 4 premier broadcast platforms.

In terms of our financial performance, adjusted OIBDA declined approximately $9 million based on lower revenue from our Media and Live Events businesses, the impact of strategic investments to support our content creation, digitization and localization strategies.

To discuss our business performance in the quarter, let's turn to Page 5 of the presentation which shows revenue, operating income and adjusted OIBDA contribution by segment as compared to the prior year.

Looking at our media segment. Adjusted OIBDA declined $7 million as the escalation of core content rights fees was offset by a reduction in network subscription revenue and the impact of the aforementioned investments. The timing of original series that is fewer episodes delivered for programs such as Total Bellas contributed to a decline in media revenue, but had a limited impact on the change of profits.

WWE Network's average paid subscribers decreased 6% to approximately 1.69 million for the second quarter, and we projected an 8% decline for the third quarter. Given this trend, we no longer expect to achieve record subscribers for 2019.

As we look ahead, our primary focus for WWE Network is its continued evolution. Late last night, we initiated the transition of WWE Network to a new platform created and delivered in partnership with Endeavor Streaming and Massive Interactive. This new platform provides subscribers with a better user experience, more intuitive user interface and much better discovery and search. More importantly, this new platform enabled the introduction of new features that we've discussed previously, and experiences, over time, including the addition of a free tier, a premium tier and the localization of the network into multiple languages. So we remain very excited about the long-term opportunity of WWE Network.

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Michelle D. Wilson, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [5]

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During the quarter, we also made progress on other critical strategic initiatives including our content distribution plans in key international markets. As both Vince and George mentioned, we completed content licensing agreements with BT Sport in the U.K., Fox Sports in Latin America and PP Sports in China. We believe these partners provide both Raw and SmackDown with strong distribution to reach both current and new WWE fan households.

While producing the 2 highest-rated programs on USA Network, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, we also continue to produce and develop other new original programs across platforms. On television, we launched a new season of Miz & Mrs on USA Network earlier this week and we renewed Total Bellas for a fifth season on E!.

On our direct-to-consumer network, we added more than 90 hours of original content, including live in-ring specials such as The Shield's Final Chapter and new talent documentaries such as WWE 24: The Year of Ronda Rousey.

For social and digital platforms, we created over 200 hours of content including our UpUpDownDown YouTube feature of WWE superstar Xavier Woods at E3. We also are developing a new unscripted series entitled Fight Like a Girl for the mobile first platform Quibi and a live action family movie entitled The Main Event to premiere on Netflix in 2020. These new shows build upon the plans we've previously discussed for a weekly studio show on Fox Sports 1 which will debut this fall, and we're also producing documentaries on our WWE Legends under the A&E biography banner which will premiere in the first quarter of 2020.

Turning to our Live Events business as shown on Page 7 of our presentation. Adjusted OIBDA from our Live Events declined $1.5 million primarily due to lower revenue from our international events. Outside North America, lower ticket sales reflected the staging of 6 fewer events and weaker performance as average attendance declined 14% to 4,900.

During the quarter, we continued to successfully stage large-scale events for our fans, including WrestleMania, which attracted more than 82,000 fans to a sold-out MetLife Stadium and Super ShowDown in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. To further develop our diverse talent base that supports such events, we held our largest-ever talent tryout in China last week which featured 40 participants. And finally, we announced that we will perform in China for a fourth straight year with an event in Shanghai at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this September.

In our Consumer Products segment, adjusted OIBDA declined slightly based on a $3.6 million reduction in revenue from the prior year quarter, primarily due to lower sales of merchandise on WWE Shop and lower royalties from the sale of toy products. As a key initiative of our consumer products business, we continue to expand our mobile game portfolio with the launch of WWE Universe. The game was developed in partnership with Glu Mobile, a marquee publisher known for its popular Tap Sports Baseball game franchise. As we launched the game, we continued to increase the penetration of our mobile games. At quarter end, we had nearly 115 million installs across our entire mobile game portfolio. Additionally, in collaboration with Mattel, we secured premium merchandising space at Walmart and supported that placement with retail payment activities in 1,300 stores over a 4-week span.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [6]

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On Page 9 of our presentation, it shows selected elements of our capital structure. As of June 30, 2019, WWE held approximately $296 million in cash and short-term investments, and we estimate that we have approximately $200 million in debt capacity under our revolving credit agreement. In the quarter, we had negative free cash flow of $27.5 million (sic) [$37.6 million], as compared to $66.4 million (sic) [$64.6 million] in the prior year. The change was predominantly due to the timing impact of our recent event in Saudi Arabia on working capital. This year's event was held in June and last year's event was held earlier in the quarter in April. To a lesser extent, the change of free cash flow also reflected a $12.1 million increase in capital expenditures, the majority of which was related to the execution of our workplace plan and lower operating performance. For the third quarter 2019, we estimate adjusted OIBDA of $17 million to $22 million. This range of results represents a year-over-year decline in adjusted OIBDA primarily due to increased fixed cost including the impact of strategic investments as well as lower WWE Network revenue, which more than offset the escalation of core content rights fees. For the full year, we continue to target record revenue of approximately $1 billion and adjusted OIBDA of at least $200 million. This guidance assumes continued improvement in our engagement metrics, a second large-scale event in the MENA region and the completion of a media rights deal in the MENA region. We believe we have agreements in principles with the Saudi -- in principle with the Saudi General Sports Authority on the broad terms for the latter 2 items. However, this understanding is nonbinding. It is possible that either or both of these business developments do not occur on expected terms and/or that engagement does not improve as assumed. We valuated these potential outcomes and currently believe that most likely downside to our adjusted OIBDA would be approximately $10 million to $20 million below our current outlook. Our full year guidance reflects strong fourth quarter results, substantial revenue growth from both our new content distribution agreements in the U.S. which become effective in that period, and the aforementioned media rights deal in the MENA region.

As you know, we're in the process of finalizing our distribution plans for Raw and SmackDown in 2 international markets, India and the Middle East. As we stated in our last earnings call, we expect to finalize these plans later this year. And once we have added visibility for 2020 and the rest of our business, provide additional perspective on our long-term strategy, key initiatives, 2020 financial performance and a longer-term business outlook. We believe in the context of the ongoing media industry trends, that we are well positioned to leverage our focus on content, digitization and globalization to drive long-term growth and shareholder value. That concludes this portion of our call.

And I'll now turn it back to Michael.

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Michael Weitz, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - SVP of IR [7]

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Thank you, George. Alan, please open the lines for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) We'll take our first question from Curry Baker with Guggenheim -- I'm sorry, we'll take our first question from Laura Martin with Needham.

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Laura Anne Martin, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [2]

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Yes, so this $10 million to $20 million lower based on -- it sounds like some of that is on the Saudi Arabia. Could you remind us what's going on in Saudi Arabia under the deal terms? Because I remember it sort of came up last quarter too, and why that's having such a big impact? And then also, George, could you talk about free cash flow lower by $100 million this year? Was that related to the working capital? And what's your free cash flow outlook for the rest of the year, please?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [3]

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Yes, so we just did an event on June 7. That event was part of the 10-year agreement that we've signed. And Laura, what we're saying is right now in our forecast, which is what [depends] our guidance, our guidance is our internal forecast, we are assuming that we'll do a second event in the region and that we will also complete a media rights deal in the region. And if those 2 come to fruition, we believe we'll hit our $200 million. And what we're saying on the downside is, if some combination -- obviously, it's not the ultimate downside case, but our best estimate of a downside case, around either those developments not coming to fruition or the engagement not improving to the level we expect it to, we estimate the most likely downside at $10 million to $20 million. On the free cash flow side in the quarter, because of the timing of the event and the accounts receivable, our collection of that, because it happened so much later in the quarter -- last year, the MENA event happened on April 27. So we collected in the second quarter, so we didn't have an outstanding AR at the end of the quarter. This time, we expect to collect in the third quarter, which is why you see that. So you'll see that reverse.

While we don't give forward-looking free cash flow guidance, what we will say is we expect another $30 million to $40 million in CapEx in the second half of the year, the reversal in the AR that I mentioned and, obviously, because of the improved performance in the fourth quarter, we expect positive free cash flow year-over-year.

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Operator [4]

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Next we'll go to Curry Baker with Guggenheim Securities.

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Curry Michael Baker, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [5]

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I have 2. So first on your $500 million share repurchase authorization, you weren't very active in the quarter. I think you did like $900,000. Can you maybe help us think about how you think about repurchases in the back half of the year? Given where the share price is now, I think you'd want to be opportunistic. And then I have one more on India.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [6]

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Yes, Curry. As we said before, to the extent we do repurchase is based on a variety of factors. First and foremost, we evaluate the intrinsic value of the business and future cash flows. We apply margin safety. We also look at the liquidity and capital needs of the business. How we feel where the market's at. The regulatory compliant -- requirements we have to comply with and any other corporate considerations we have. So that's what goes into it. And in Q2, after evaluating all that, we were in the market for about 12,000 shares, average price of $74, and like you said, about 1 million. And we'll continue to evaluate that into the back half of the year and we'll act in what we feel would be a prudent manner, but we're not going to give any guidance on that.

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Curry Michael Baker, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [7]

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Okay. And then on India, I know you can't really speak to negotiations at this point, but could you maybe provide us with any incremental color you have just on how TV ratings there and AVOD consumption's tracking? And then also just on the market in India broadly, can you speak to the overall state of the paid television market there as well as any specifics in terms of competitive dynamics and the demand for content, specifically WWE content, in India?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [8]

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Yes, Curry. I really don't want to get into characterizing discussions that are ongoing. So I'm going to stay away from that. Our general belief is that over the next 10 years, the India media and entertainment sector is going to grow fairly significantly. And so our focus is how we deepen the brand over the long term. And Vince mentioned, localization, localized content. India's certainly at the top of the list potentially on doing that.

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Curry Michael Baker, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Analyst [9]

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Okay. Can you provide any just consumption data there just in terms of what you're seeing, how consumption's tracking in the first half of the year? Is there anything you can provide?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [10]

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Look, like I said, I don't want to start talking about our internal data and market just given where we are. I think there are reports out there on the India media and entertainment sector. I read one recently by EY. I think it came out in April or May. And you get a sense of who's consuming what, what's being consumed, and the long-term outlook, at least from EY's perspective. But ultimately at this point, I really don't want to talk about our internal data just given where we are in all these discussions.

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Operator [11]

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We'll take our next question is from Vasily Karasyov with Cannonball Research.

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Vasily Karasyov, Cannonball Research, LLC - Founder [12]

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Since we are getting closer to Q4 in 2020, I was wondering if you could comment on this math. If I were trying to extrapolate from what's implied by Q4 for 2020, if I were just to take what's implied by your guidance, take out these MENA agreements and annualize that number and add Saudi Arabia events to that, would that be a decent back-of-the-envelope approximation of what EBITDA should look like for 2020? And if I'm wrong, where am I going wrong here?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [13]

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Yes, Vasily, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to get into trying to architect the 2020 model on this call. When we're ready to talk about 2020 in the future, we'll give our view of that. But I'm uncomfortable getting into that right now.

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Vasily Karasyov, Cannonball Research, LLC - Founder [14]

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Okay. But if I ask this question, Q4 is closer to the run rate of quarters, there will be no such pronounced seasonality quarter-to-quarter starting in 2020 because of the media rights deals kicking in. Would that be correct?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [15]

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I think a lot of it will depend on how we choose to invest in the future. It's something we're still evaluating. So again, I don't want to start talking about what -- how to best calculate 2020 or what's an applicable trend. So we're going to stay away from 2020 right now.

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Operator [16]

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We'll next go to David Karnovsky with JPMorgan.

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David Karnovsky, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [17]

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On the appointment of Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as executive directors, can you just comment on why now was the right time for this move? And just maybe expand a bit on what their responsibilities will be and how much latitude they'll be given in the process?

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [18]

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Perhaps the why now question is a logical one. I can't personally be in the weeds any longer, and we have these 2 individuals who have a longer-range point of view and a developmental point of view. Both of these individuals have "extensive backgrounds" in the business from various aspects. And with the organizational aspects that they have and the depth of talent, executive talent, writing talent which they now will attract is really going to be really good for our business. And to answer how much latitude they will have, that's -- again, it allows me to have a broader overview of things and an escape from just getting in the weeds. So they'll have a lot of latitude.

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David Karnovsky, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [19]

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Okay. And then just shifting a bit, on the Saudi event, George, can you just clarify on what's actually reversing here? Does this mean that some revenue you thought that was coming in Q4 ended up being part of the Q2 event?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [20]

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Yes. Something like that, David. We have made -- again, our forecast is our guidance. We have made a forecast around what we thought the event would generate, and there's a reversal of that where we're moving our original expectation for Q2 into Q4 and vice versa, so.

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David Karnovsky, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Analyst [21]

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Okay. And just one more if I can. Regarding the Q3 outlook, I think back at Q4 earnings, you had stated that given the investment cadence, OIBDA would be potentially flat to down. Just trying to understand the change relative to today's guide and whether that potentially reflects a shift or maybe overall increase in your investment spend?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [22]

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Yes, I think it's a couple of things. Number one, some of the engagement metrics that we've seen trickle into Q3, so it's a little bit lower, we believe. And then there is an impact on the investment side, both some of the year-over-year lapping as well as we've -- as I mentioned in the prepared remarks, we've made additional investments into our content creation, our digitization strategy and our localization. So we thought it was important to do now, and we've done that. So that's what's driving that change that you referenced.

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Operator [23]

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Your next question comes from the line of Eric Handler with MKM Partners.

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Eric Owen Handler, MKM Partners LLC, Research Division - MD, Sector Head & Senior Analyst [24]

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Wonder if you could talk a little bit about the WWE Network relaunch. How long will it take, do you think, before we start to see the tiered pricing? How long before we see some additional foreign languages being introduced or increased localization efforts?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [25]

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Yes, I think the cadence will be for free-tier first, which we're really excited about; the paid tier, premium tier, second; and then our first additional language, we believe, after that. I think you'll start seeing things this year around that and probably all 3 get done within the next 12 months or so depending on how the rollout goes, but you'll begin to see those -- our whole business this year.

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Eric Owen Handler, MKM Partners LLC, Research Division - MD, Sector Head & Senior Analyst [26]

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Great. And just as a follow-up. With regards to the international TV deals that are done, I know you don't want to talk the economic value of those deals. But maybe you could talk about maybe some of the reasons why you went with BT, and structurally, some of the differences may be based on the tiers that you're going to be on, or just how it increases reach both in Latin America and the U.K.?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [27]

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Yes, look, ultimately, we make our choices based on evaluating the market, evaluating potential partners and coming up with a conclusion on the balance between economics, reach and engagement. In all 3 cases, given the current market dynamics, we feel really good where we ended up. I don't want to talk about specific clauses and agreements, but I will say generally, or -- and across all 3, we've been able to, from a scope of rights perspective, get more flexibility to what we think would reach more in diverse audiences like Vince touched on in his remarks. So we're really excited about them. But I don't want to get into the specifics again because some of this is confidential.

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Operator [28]

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(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Ben Swinburne with Morgan Stanley.

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Benjamin Daniel Swinburne, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD [29]

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I have 2 questions. There's been a lot of press written about the sort of the state of the product or state of the content, the Variety article recently about some of the engagement in ratings trends. You guys sound pretty optimistic that you've turned the corner. And I know, George, you've caveated the guidance around continued improvement. I'm just wondering if you could spend a couple more minutes talking about how you see the state of story lines and the product on the screen currently relative to the past 2, 3 quarters where it's been moving in the wrong direction just to see if we can address some of the controversy that's out there. And then I just want to ask, following up on the network, do you think some of the network, the subscriber trends have been impacted by your transition in platforms, in other words, I don't know if you've maybe had less product innovation or marketing behind it because you've been waiting to move off of BAMTECH onto these new platforms, or if you just think it's more chalked up to the content cycle.

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [30]

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As far as the content is concerned, I'll address that. We have definitely turned the corner. And again, as I mentioned, we have executive directors with each brand now. They can go into more depth, I think that notwithstanding that, we're going to spend more time on our story lines, good ones, and also talent development. It's a combination of a lot of things. All good things thus far are coming together and what I guess I'd call a relaunch in terms of our content.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [31]

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And then Ben, to your question on the network. I think it would be factually correct to say that as we've put our engineering resources over the last 12 months, the design, and as this creates this new experience that we're rolling out now, that meant there was less time and resources to innovate on what will be now the legacy platform. So you could argue that may be that has some impact. However, from our perspective, we think the major impact was related to engagement metrics that didn't translate to the same level of year-over-year growth around WrestleMania that we've seen in the past. And just as you know, subscription businesses are driven by both the gross add and the retention. And for us, our biggest gross add moment, as you'd expect, is around WrestleMania. So when that doesn't perform -- when it's down year-over-year, it has just the mathematical repercussions into the forward time period. So we think it was more of that. But to your point and it's hard to parse it all out, there's no doubt all you'd have to do is look at iOS or Android version, [and you'd see that] we haven't done a lot of updates in the network for about 12 months because we have to make choices, we have limited resources, and those engineering resources have been really around creating and developing the new platform, which we're really excited about.

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Operator [32]

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Next, we'll go to Marci Ryvicker with Wolfe Research.

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Marci Lynn Walner Ryvicker, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD of Equity Research & Senior Equity Analyst [33]

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I have 2 clarification questions. First of all, I thought the issue was the buyback, that you had material non-information, public information, related to all of international deals, and that's why you couldn't buy back stock. So can you just talk about that? And then secondly, we're getting asked during the call about cost saving, because I think everyone was expecting you to lap the big increases coming into the second half of the year.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [34]

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Yes. I don't want to comment specifically on your question around MNPI. I'll say what I said around -- when I responded to Curry, regulatory requirements are part of our evaluation on whether or not to execute within the buyback program. On the cost side, I mentioned it before, earlier in the year, we had expected that the overlap of 2018 investments, that the comp would get easier as we move through the year, third and fourth quarter, which it does. However, we've chosen to make some additional investments based on our view that it will create more value than delaying them. So that's why you saw the Q3 change, something we've decided to do.

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Operator [35]

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Next, we'll go to Eric Katz, also with Wolfe Research.

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Eric Isaac Katz, Wolfe Research, LLC - Research Analyst [36]

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So one housekeeping thing. As far as Q4, one-timers are nonrecurrings. We have, I guess, the U.S. deal, the Saudi deal and the Saudi event. Is there anything else that we should be aware of?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [37]

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Well, the deal in China, the deal in Latin America, the year-over-year impact's smaller than those, which is why we didn't call them out. And I just think generally, the engagement trends and the impact that those -- that, that engagement have on the more transactional areas of our business, which includes our digital advertising, our Consumer Products businesses. So we didn't call out each independent line item. But if you think about the transactional side of our business being more impacted by the day-to-day, that's why we need those engagement metrics to -- at a minimum, to stabilize or continue to improve to a point where they're back where they were first half of last year.

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Eric Isaac Katz, Wolfe Research, LLC - Research Analyst [38]

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Okay. And then just coming back to the engagement a bit more. Clearly, you're addressing it head-on with the big hires. Can you talk a little bit about the intended direction of the content going forward because if it's going to be a bit edgier, I'm just kind of curious how your partners feel, especially Fox, because the censors are probably a bit stricter for broadcast?

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [39]

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We're going to be a bit edgier, but still remain in the PG environment. We just haven't come anywhere close actually to going into another level. So that will be something we'll do in terms of direction of content, more controversy, better story lines, et cetera. But at the same time, we're not going to go back to the "attitude era" and we're not going to do blood and guts and things of that nature such as being done on perhaps a new potential competitor. We're just not going to go back to that gory crap that we graduated from. And again, a more sophisticated product, again, attracting much better writers and attracting better management, things of that nature. So again, as I said, I feel really good about it.

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Eric Isaac Katz, Wolfe Research, LLC - Research Analyst [40]

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Okay. Maybe just one more. There are some rumors out there that there could be some more content coming to one of your partners. I know you can't discuss any negotiations. But just the rumor was that NXT could be something that comes to television. Is there a thought process on whether you'd rather keep that on the network or a scenario where that could come to television?

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [41]

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Okay. I think I mean we've said this before. Create 1,500 hours of content across a variety of different genres, including about over 300 in-ring content. And for every piece of content, we need to evaluate what's the best platform. It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted that content seen by someone, you had 1 choice. you had to find multiple partners around the world to reach the new audience. Today, you can still do that. You can go direct and have it supported by advertising and reach half the world's population, or you can do it direct and have it supported through subscription advertising. So that's -- your question applies to everything. And we've got to always evaluate, and we're trading a lot of things like economics, engagement, reach, reaching new audiences. So it applies to everything including NXT. We're not going to talk about NXT specifically, but it's a constant discussion. It's probably what we spend the most amount of time internally talking about, is what content to create and what's the best place for it.

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Operator [42]

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Now we'll go to Alan Gould with Loop Capital.

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Alan Steven Gould, Loop Capital Markets LLC, Research Division - MD [43]

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I've got 2 questions. First, can you give us some sense on how much promotion Fox is going to do once the programming goes there, October 4. I mean I assume at least Thursday Night Football will promote Friday Night Wrestling, et cetera. And secondly, on Indian Mid East, can you just give us some sense when those deals expire? I'm assuming they have not expired yet. I assume the content is still on the air in both markets.

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Michelle D. Wilson, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [44]

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So I'll take the Fox question. As Vince mentioned, we're extremely excited about the opportunity to partner with Fox. In terms of exactly what they're going to do, for any of you that have been watching NASCAR or any of the other broadcast that Fox has been doing, they're already promoting SmackDown through integration into their current broadcast, so they're already doing that. What I will say is that, that will be dialed up significantly as we get into the month of September. Obviously, as we've talked about in the past, they've put together one of the strongest promotional plans I've seen in my time in terms of leveraging their Thursday Night Football packages, what they have with baseball, again what they do with NASCAR.

So on their Sports side, absolutely in every major sports broadcast that they have, WWE SmackDown will be promoted. In addition to that, they obviously have strong programming on the entertainment side. So it won't be exclusive to just Fox Sports. It will also be their entertainment programming as well. They're doing some really -- besides just kind of the traditional promotion with a spot, if you will, they're also looking to integrate us into their programming organically, whether it's the Masked Singer or some of the other shows that they have coming out.

So again, I'm not going to get into the specific detail around the economic value of what they're promoting but suffice it to say that it is significant. And to Vince's point earlier, given the number of households they reach, which is 35% higher than what we do on USA Network partnered with that level of promotion is the reason why we're really excited, coupled with where our story line is going, that we see this as a real opportunity come October.

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [45]

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At the same time, as far as promotion is concerned, we've been led to believe as well that NBCU was going to up their promotional efforts, and I don't know if they can equal or not Fox. But again, they too now are in a more competitive situation obviously and want to do much better with Raw.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [46]

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And Alan, on the questions on -- in India, our current agreement expires at the end of this year. In the Middle East, our Pay TV agreement has been terminated, but our free-to-air agreement continues to be in place. As a reminder, YouTube -- all of YouTube has some of the highest per capita consumption in the world in that region. So we're pretty good at activating using the digital channels, so we continue to be pretty aggressive on that right now.

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Operator [47]

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(Operator Instructions) We'll next go to Laura Martin with Needham.

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Laura Anne Martin, Needham & Company, LLC, Research Division - Senior Analyst [48]

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Yes. So Vince, one of the things you said last quarter was that content -- that your story lines and your content loss of talent was affecting ratings. And while the ratings got better in the quarter, we still have negative comp in not only ratings, but live event attendance, and that's affecting consumer products. And you're like the best businessman I cover. And my question to you is at what point do you decide that investing this extra money and hiring extra writers actually doesn't solve the problem because the problem is structurally shrinking ratings for the -- that linear platform and the fact there's just more competitors coming to entertainment programming over the top. So what point do you stop spending extra money trying to get the ratings up because they actually can't go up? What metrics are you looking for?

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Vincent K. McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO [49]

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As far as competition is concerned, the old adage of competition is good for everyone. I think that's generally the case although again we're hoping that to the extent that they are competition, that they don't continue on with blood and guts and gory things that they have been doing, which will be bad. And I can't imagine -- I can't speak for TNT, but I can't imagine they would put up with that. But nonetheless, as far as investment is concerned, into the product, into the content, it's not one of the sizable type things. It's just more of a restructuring and more of utilization. Yes, bringing in new faces, new blood, who have different kinds of ideas and connections and so forth. So again, it's just not one man's vision. It's now a combination of what will happen in the future. So again I'm bullish on all of that. When you look at not just television ratings, but metrics from social and digital and everything, that's really is a new way of promoting, notwithstanding the fact that we are going to continue to build the mother ships as it were with Raw and SmackDown. So again, from an investment standpoint, that's where you should obviously invest your dollar in, but it's not sizable at all.

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George A. Barrios, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - Co-President & Director [50]

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And Laura, just I'd add to what Vince said is how we think about the opportunity and the size of the opportunity, because it's important, right? I mean if you don't think there's enough upside that it might change your perspective on investing. And you're right. We also believe there's going to be continuing competition because there's going to be fragmentation, more and more content. Our belief right now is that if you have the scale to cut through the clutter, even if on an absolute basis, you may be getting slightly less share of the pie. But if you are cutting through the clutter, that you have an economic opportunity. And we continue to be in the U.S., one of the top deliverers of live eyeballs on a consistent basis, even with the declines, we're still in that -- in the top. In fact, other than the NFL, across broadcast and cable, we're in that next tier with the NBA and baseball, for example. We believe that content is going to continue to get more valuable because it will be harder and harder to cut through the clutter. And so we do think it makes sense to invest to maintain that position.

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Michael Weitz, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - SVP of IR [51]

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Alan, do we have any more questions on the line?

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Operator [52]

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No, sir. We have no further questions.

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Michael Weitz, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. - SVP of IR [53]

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Thank you, everyone. We appreciate you listening to the call today. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Thank you.

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Operator [54]

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That does conclude today's conference. We thank everyone again for their participation.