– WWE’s CEO Linda McMahon, COO Donna Goldsmith and CFO George Barrios took part in an investor conference call earlier today to discuss the fourth quarter financial results that were released earlier. Linda read a prepared statement, stressing the harsh economic environment we’re in having an effect on the numbers WWE released. She mentioned a 10% reduction in staff at the company beginning in January was part of a $20 million reduction in operating costs for 2009. She noted WWE plans to upgrade their media center but those plans have been put on hold at this time. Linda praised the expansion of WWE’s international initiatives and mentioned their growing TV coverage. She also put over their new deal with WGN and mentioned foreign currency exchange rates have had an effect on their bottom line, but talked about strong attendance at their recent overseas tours.
Here are some highlights from the Q&A with investors:
– The delay on the media center upgrade will not have any bearing on the quality of the current production.
– Linda McMahon noted that with the WGN television now, WWE will have programming on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, plus PPV events on Sundays, in the U.S. It was joked that WWE still has two nights left to try and grab.
– The difficulties WWE DVD distributor Genius has encountered has had no negative effects on WWE product distribution.
– WWE video game sales are on the same level as last year.
– Concerning PPV buys dropping, they avoided saying whether they feel the buyrates have “bottomed out” and refused to “predict the future” regarding them.
– It was pointed out that in comparison to the rest of the DVD industry, WWE is “bucking the trend” and while taking a hit, is not showing the steep decline others have.
– WrestleMania will be part of the second quarter numbers for 2009 this year.
– Linda said she felt the popularity of the WWE brand is “strong” and noted the week over week increase in SmackDown viewership since the move to MyNetwork TV as an example. She noted that some weeks ratings are “soft” but overall they are maintaining their audience.
– When asked if WWE were going to reduce the number of PPV events due to the declining buys, it was stated that it was “not in the works”.
– There was a slightly heated discussion with one investor regarding WWE’s decision to continue issuing dividends versus reinvesting money in the company, saying it “didn’t make sense”. George Barrios responded that “it doesn’t make sense to you”. It was the last question taken, and there was not the usual “any more questions” request before ending the call.