World Wrestling Entertainment shares continued their slide Monday, even as speculation swirled that online retail giant Amazon could be a potential partner.
WWE has been in a tailspin since Jan. 30, when the company said it had terminated its co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson. The fall off continued after WWE said last week that it was evaluating strategic alternatives for its streaming video service, WWE Network.
WWE shares closed Monday at $41.99 each, down 54 cents or about 1.3%. The stock, which traded as low as $40.88 (down 4%) on Feb. 10, has fallen about 33% since Jan. 30.
WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon told analysts Feb. 6 that among WWE’s options is licensing its content to a “major” network or streaming service. While McMahon did not reveal who the company could partner with, he said if that route were taken, a deal could be reached as soon as next month.
“That’s how far along we are,” McMahon said last week.
That touched off a whirlwind of speculation as to who that partner could be, with Needham and Co. analyst Laura Martin telling CNBC that Amazon could be a possible buyer of WWE content.
Martin had no knowledge of any talks between the two but said Amazon, which has shown interest in sports in the past -- it has purchased streaming rights to Thursday Night Football and is a minority partner in the YES Network RSN -- could find WWE content attractive. She added that a rights purchase could lead to an eventual buyout of the entire company.
“We believe that such a licensing deal would put Amazon in the best spot to purchase all of WWE, whenever the family is ready to exit,” Martin said, according to CNBC. “Vince McMahon is currently 74 years old, going on 50.”
Another possibility, offered FBN Securities analyst Robert Routh in an interview, could be NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service.
Peacock, set to launch on April 15, could use all the content it could get. And its parent, NBCUniversal already has a relationship with WWE -- its USA Network airs WWE Raw on Monday nights.
“They [WWE] are being very tight lipped in terms of what their options are, but they have been clear that they have a bunch of them,” Routh said.
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