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July 22, 2019

Variety Calls Out Vince McMahon Over Excuses For Falling Ratings, WWE Q2 Earnings Decline Expected

WWE will be reporting earnings its second quarter 2019 earnings this Thursday, July 25th. Zacks Equity Research reports that Wall Street analysts are expecting a year-over-year decline in earnings on lower revenues for the quarter, which ended on June 30, 2019. They estimated that revenues are expected to be $277.20 million, down 1.6% from the prior year quarter. The company is expected to report a loss of $0.03 per share for the quarter, which is a change of -121.4% from this point last year.

WWE reported disappointing results for the first quarter of 2019, with a net loss of $8.4 million compared to a profit of $14.8 million in the prior year quarter. The decrease was primarily because of the drop in live event revenue and lower merchandise sales. At the time, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon Vince McMahon blamed the poor results on "superstar absences."

"While engagement metrics over the past two quarters were impacted by Superstar absences, we believe they will improve as our talent return and we launch our new season following a successful WrestleMania," McMahon said last April. "We remain excited about the future, particularly with our debut on Fox in October."

Top media outlet Variety ran a story today calling out McMahon for his past excuses for the drop in business. It was noted that the "superstar absences" have been rectified this quarter, however ratings have continued to fall.

Becky Lynch, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss have all made more televised appearances in the second quarter of 2019, however the audience for RAW is down 20% for the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2018. SmackDown is down 17% from 2018.

Alfred Konuwa of Forbes noted that for the second quarter of 2019, RAW averaged just 2.35 million viewers, a 20% decline from the 2.96 million viewers that RAW was averaging during the same quarter last year. NPR interviewed Konuwa this past weekend regarding WWE's falling ratings, and was asked about some of the company's problems.

"A lot of wrestling fans have complained about what's called a scripted promo. So back to the point about writers - a lot of the writers fail to grasp the essence of a wrestler or a person," Konuwa said. "So when they're talking on TV, it just - you can tell immediately that they're reciting a line that they have to say that some writer cooked up for them. And when wrestling was in its peak, it was just - every wrestling character was an extension of who they really were. And so when they were talking on television, you got the sense that you're getting a glimpse into that real person's persona.

"But with this generation, it's so hard to get emotionally invested in these characters because there's so much writing and there's so much scripting that that's pretty much the No. 1 thing that a lot of fans are complaining about - that and the fact that Vince McMahon still has so much power. It's not too different from what the New York Knicks are going through with James Dolan who - I don't think Vince McMahon is that bad of an owner to compare him to James Dolan, but, you know, Knicks fans are frustrated. They're this historic franchise that has all this money and all this prestige, and no free agent wants to come over there. That's kind of what WWE is going through in terms of, there is one man who's at the top who a lot of people are blaming for their central problems."

The Variety story noted that McMahon hiring Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman as Exexcutive Directors of SmackDown and RAW, respectively, was an indicator that they are focused on their biggest problem, which is their creative. However, while Bischoff will be the leader of SmackDown, he will reportedly not be involved in the actual creative process.

It will be interesting to see how McMahon will handle questions about the drop in ratings. Last year, McMahon said that he knew how to fix their live event business falling when asked about the declines in that departmentit. Live event attendance continued to decline double digits in 2019 from the year prior. McMahon stated during the Q1 conference call in April that they have a new team working on live events that will turn things around.


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