'WrestleMania' Shift Lifts WWE Profits 29% In Q1

Buoyed by its WrestleMania event falling in the period, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. pinned a 29% rise in net income on a 51% revenue advance during the first quarter.

During the period ended March 31, the Stamford, Conn.-headquartered WWE posted net income of $19.5 million, compared with $15.1 million in the first quarter of 2007. Total revenues reached $162.6 million, up from $107.4 million, as operating income improved 31% to $27.1 million from $20.6 million.

The upticks were fueled in large part by WrestleMania XXIV taking place on March 31 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, versus WrestleMania 23 occurring on April 1 last year, with attendant financial results tallied in second quarter 2007.

All told, WWE recorded 1.06 million pay-per-view buys for WrestleMania XXIV, which generated $23.8 million in revenue; the event carried a suggested retail price of $54.95 in North America. By comparison, WrestleMania 23 notched 1.2 billion buys and $24.6 million in PPV revenue, as that event from Detroit’s Ford Field, had a $49.95 North American price point.    

In aggregate, WWE reported that WrestleMania XXIV contributed some $31.3 million of revenues and $7.1 million of profit contribution, $4.6 million net of tax. The prior year’s event produced $31.4 million in total revenue, $9.7 million in profit contribution, and $6.6 million net of tax in the second quarter of 2007.

A breakdown by business unit showed that the primary live and televised entertainment unit, comprising its lives shows and PPV events, saw revenue surge 58% to $99.8 million from $63 million, tied to the shift in the WrestleMania schedule.

Live event revenue, fueled by $5.9 million from WrestleMania 24, reached $24.6 million from $18.2 million. Overall, WWE hosted 74 events in the quarter, up from 71; both totals included eight staged abroad.

PPV revenue, driven by the WrestleMania 24 shift, grew 160% to $41.2 million from $15.8 million. First quarter 2007 included New Year’s Revolution, an event that WWE did not produce this year.

Television rights, reflecting higher rights fees from international distributors, increased 14% to $24 million, compared with $21.9 million.

Venue merchandise revenue hit $5.6 million, $400,000 more than the corresponding period in 2007, while video-on-demand revenue surged 60% to 1.6 million from $1 million, reflecting a larger subscriber base and wider availability for the WWE 24/7 service.   

WWE’s consumer products segment generated net revenues of $43.4 million, $6 million more than in the corresponding year-earlier period, with profit contributions up $4 million to $27.6 million.

On the digital media side, WWE had profits of $3.4 million, up from $2 million, with revenue growing to $8.1 million from $7 million.

The WWE Films segment posted profits of $1.9 million on revenue of $11.3 million with the release of features See No Evil and The Marine. There were no contributions from this unit a year ago.

Profits totaled $62.6 million, up 27% from $49.3 million. Margin slipped to 39% from 46%. The decline, WWE said, primarily reflects additional costs associated with producing an outdoor WrestleMania event, plus a significant promotional outlay behind the big show.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization was $29.6 million, versus $22.9 million, but cash flow fell to $15 million from $24.7 million.

“Our first quarter results reflect the power of our premiere event, WrestleMania XXIV.Our WrestleMania brand provides us with a unique opportunity to showcase our creative content and marketing talents across a multitude of media outlets,” said CEO Linda McMahon in a statement. “In addition to posting solid financial results in the first quarter, we are actively expanding our global brand presence through our newly established international offices.

"During the quarter, we also announced and paid our first quarterly cash dividend at the increased rate of $0.36 per share for all shares not owned by the McMahon family,” she continued. “As we continue to take the next steps forward, we remain focused on delivering value to our shareholders for the long term.”