During WWE's 2019 fourth-quarter earnings call in February, Vince McMahon and Interim CFO Frank Riddick discussed the possibility of WWE Network selling content to other major companies.
McMahon said during the call that a deal could be completed as soon as the first quarter of 2020. No further details were provided, but there were reports that WWE was talking to ESPN about putting content on ESPN+.
The first quarter of 2020 has come and gone with no deal between WWE and another major company/platform. And when asked on the 2020 first-quarter earnings call for an update on what's happening with the Network, McMahon and Riddick, both noted that COVID-19 caused a lot of setbacks for everyone.
"The main issue has been, they had their own issues to deal with in trying to respond to COVID-19. We haven't heard that they had a lack of interest in the property, that's not the case. We're excited about the performance of the Network in this environment, it only enhances the value of it and gives us more options. We're still pursuing a strategic transaction. We would consider anything that would optimize the value of it. We have a plan for the network in absence of doing a deal this year or having it delayed. We continue to be, in this environment, pretty excited by the response we've gotten. If there are things we can do to add value to that, we will," said Riddick.
Riddick did not get into specifics as far as who they were talking to with the Network.
McMahon added, "I think the COVID-19 stuff caught everybody with their pants down. We had a number of individuals who were very interested in our Network. Just when you think you're getting close, the bottom fell out. We were very close with a number of individuals that really want our Network. On the other hand, we continue to invest in it with a free tier. We're going to do any number of improvements and different marketing for it. It's a complete go from the standpoint of not doing anything with anyone else, just doing it right here. If something happens with someone else after COVID-19 is over and they look at their balance sheet, that will happen too."
It was revealed during the earnings call that the WWE Network averaged 1.495 million paid subscribers in quarter one 2020.
During the coronavirus pandemic, WWE offered free access to major content on the Network, including all major WWE pay-per-view events. WWE continues to offer the first month of WWE Network free to new subscribers.
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