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March 7, 2014

WWE Expects New Cable-TV Deal by Early May, CFO Barrios Says

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE:US) may find a new cable-TV home for its popular “Raw” and “Smackdown” programs by the end of next month, Chief Financial Officer George Barrios said.

“We think we’ll be able to announce a new domestic rights partner at the end of April or beginning of May,” Barrios, who is also WWE’s chief strategy officer, said yesterday in a telephone interview. He said the company is in talks with “multiple parties,” while declining to name any.

Shares of Stamford, Connecticut-based WWE have gained almost 30 percent this week on prospects for a new online video network and a richer deal for the popular cable shows, according to Barrios. The company, controlled by founder and Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon through Class B shares with added voting rights, isn’t in merger talks, he said.

WWE has held talks on future domestic TV distribution of its shows with AMC Networks Inc. (AMCX:US), Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US), Time Warner Inc. (TWX:US)’s Turner Networks and 21st Century Fox Inc., said people with knowledge of the situation. A renewal with NBCUniversal is also possible, they said.

WWE fell less than 1 percent to $29.64 at the close in New York after setting a record yesterday. The shares have more than tripled (WWE:US) in the past 12 months.

The WWE App has been downloaded almost 11 million times in 220 countries, a company spokesman said today. Fans can use the app to watch the WWE Network, a digital channel in the U.S. that costs $9.99 a month.

“Those are significant economics,” Barrios said. “Investors are looking at those and figuring out how they will contribute.”

An exclusive negotiating period with Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US)’s NBCUniversal for cable rights ended last month. WWE’s shows run on NBCUniversal’s USA and SyFy networks.

“Raw” and “Smackdown” routinely rate among the most-watched shows on cable television each week, with “Raw” usually in the top 10 behind programs such as “The Walking Dead,” “Duck Dynasty” and “Pawn Stars,” according to Nielsen data.

“When you boil down the numbers we have larger live, same-day viewers than anything on cable,” Barrios said. “We have a passionate fanbase that follows us wherever we are.”

source: bloomberg businessweek


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