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WWE conference call: Vince McMahon addresses the company's financial report, creating new television shows, Raw ratings, and more
The following are the highlights of the WWE conference call that was held in conjunction with the fourth quarter earnings report that was released on Thursday.
-Vince McMahon summed up the performance for 2009 as "not great, but good." He noted that live events is a key barometer when it comes to determining where the company is and where it's headed. He noted that the live events category had increased. Vince noted that they reduced their expenses. He noted they cut their head count by 10 percent and were more efficient with advertising.
-Vince said the U.S. television audience grew by 800,000 viewers. He said Raw is "one of our key programs" has shown an 11 percent increase in household ratings. He spoke about how there are more alternatives on television, so he's proud of the increase. McMahon also reminded listeners that they created WWE Superstars. He said the idea is to create a show and then distribute it nationally.
-Vince said they plan to work with China on live events and expanding their television within the country.
-Vince said they are in a partnership with Mattel. He noted that the litigation with their previous toy distributor is complete.
-Vince noted that Basil DeVito has been unanimously elected to the board of directors.
-CFO George Barrios took listeners through the financial report. He noted that there were some one-time expenses, specifically a $6.4 million charge associated with a prior business partner.
-The pay-per-view schedule for 2010 has been reduced to 13 events. Barrios noted that they increased the non-WrestleMania pay-per-view price by five dollars.
-DVD shipments were down 14 percent compared to the previous year.
-WWE publishing remained "flat," according to Barrios. He chalked it up to increased distribution costs.
-The company has $37 million in capitalized film production on the balance sheet.
-WWE has targeted "strengthening global television distribution, exploiting the new licensing agreement with Mattel, and continuing to manage costs and improve operating efficiencies" areas where investors can expect growth.
-With the presentation concluded, they began taking phone calls. The first caller asked how much growth can be expected due to their partnership with Mattel. WWE executive Donna Goldsmith didn't put a percentage on it, but she noted that they expect "tremendous" growth.
-The company is hopeful that their new DVD distribution deal with Vivendi will lead to growth in home video. Goldsmith noted that rental business is improving, which said is new. She noted that they will use different distribution partners outside North America.
-The second caller expressed concern over the pay-per-view price increase, noting that it seems "aggressive" given the state of the economy. Goldsmith said they feel good going into the new year that they made the right decision. She noted the Royal Rumble pay-per-view preliminary numbers indicate that they made the right decision.
-WWE has a meeting scheduled with Red Box this week regarding DVDs. She noted that they are also talking with Netflix.
-A caller asked about WWE launching it's own television network. Vince said they are doing due diligence at this point. He said he thinks it could be a "really big game changer" for the company. "We are pursuing that and taking the next steps," Vince said.
-The caller asked how a WWE network would affect existing deals with their current television partners. Vince said their strategy would be to retain as many cable affiliates as they could have while pushing their own network. He said he hopes Raw remains on USA Network for years to come. He noted that he hopes Smackdown has a strong network whether it be MyNetwork TV or elsewhere.
-Vince said the company moves quickly and he hopes that they launch the WWE network with in the next 18 months.
-Another caller asked if they need to have their new media center in place before the WWE network launches. Barrios said they need to launch the new media center regardless of whether they add the network. He said they made the call to delay the media center previously, but now he feels they need it "sooner rather than later."
-The caller asked about the decreased Survivor Series pay-per-view numbers. Vince said he believes the title is "obsolete." He said many years ago it was one of the original four. "It's outlasted it's usage." He said they will no longer use that title going forward.
-The call concluded without anyone asking questions about the NXT television show. It was never mentioned during the presentation or call.
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