WWE Network Subscriber Update, UK Brand Uncertainty, Vince Comments on Mae Young Classic

WWE Network subscribers are right about where they were before WrestleMania 33.

WWE reported today there are 1.57 million subscribers to its subscription video streaming service, as of June 30. That's nearly identical to the figure they reported last quarter for March 31.

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Network subscriptions the day after WrestleMania 33 (April 3) however were higher, with 1.66 million paid subs.

More people canceled the Network in Q2 (April 1 to June 30) than any quarter yet since the service was launched in February 2014.

604,000 accounts were canceled ("churned") during the period. Meanwhile, slightly fewer, 598,000 accounts were subscribed ("gross additions") during the period.

Source: WWE Key Performance Indicators

During the conference call associated with the company's quarterly earnings release, executives were asked about the future of the WWE UK brand and whether a weekly program will be launched, as rumored.

WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios' answer didn't make it sound like a UK weekly show is happening any time soon.

"For the UK brand specifically, we think there's a real opportunity there," Barrios said.

"We'll take it as it goes. We're pretty good at trying things, learning from them and then building them out organically. But we're excited. We have a big fan base in the UK. They've shown an appetite for local talent, so as Vince [McMahon] mentioned we'll continue to play around with that and build on it."

Earlier in the call, WWE CEO Vince McMahon hyped the Mae Young Classic women's tournament.

"The Mae Young Classic is really an opportunity for us to bring up young female performers, which is vital actually to our overall product," McMahon said of the tournament that will be released on the Network starting August 28.

McMahon pushed, as Executive Vice President Paul Levesque did in an interview earlier this month, the notion that women's wrestling performs well when it comes to WWE's TV ratings.

McMahon said many of the quarter-hour ratings that perform well are those featuring female talent.

The chairman expressed that the Mae Young Classic is another opportunity for the company to do a better job appealing to a female audience, which McMahon admitted hasn't always been the company's strong suit.

"So [the Mae Young Classic] is an opportunity to grow that [female fan] base which we haven't done all that well [with] in the past."

One analyst floated the idea WWE could someday sell rights to a social media platform such as Facebook. TV rights account for about 33% of company revenue. WWE's three biggest TV rights deals are set to expire in 2019. Additional suitors could theoretically increase the company's leverage in rights negotiations.

Barrios said he anticipates social media companies will come to the table to negotiate broadcast rights eventually. In a constantly changing media landscape, it's hard to predict when.

"Do I think a digital player will become more realistic to step up into the level of rights fees from traditional players? I think eventually. Couldn't tell you if that's tomorrow or five years from now, but eventually."

The CFO explained that at least one reason why WWE has invested so much into social media and the reason why it's pushed so hard on TV is so the company can take advantage of just such a circumstance.

"But from our end, the reason we've invested so much into having a position on these [social media] platforms is to take advantage of that eventuality... It's a long-winded way of saying, yes, do we see [social media platforms becoming potential partners for broadcast rights]? Absolutely."

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