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World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE:WWE)

Citi Global Consumer Conference Transcript

May 29, 2013 10:55 AM ET

Executives

George Barrios - Chief Financial Officer

George Barrios - Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Greg and thanks for the Citi team for having us and thanks to everyone here today. So let’s get started. Forward-looking statements, obviously I will be making forward-looking statements today and actual results could differ for a variety of reasons. The topics I would like to touch on is give a quick snapshot of the company, talk a little bit about what we believe our competitive strength and then most importantly talk about the future. We believe those strength underlie terrific growth opportunity.

Before we get started, they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, videos probably worth more so, [video presentation].

So with that, a quick snapshot on WWE, from 2008 to 2010 solid earnings growth, in fact 2009 and 2010 were the two most profitable years in the company's history. From '11 to '13, core business continues to generate significant cash flow and WWE begins investing in both our film business and our network opportunity and the reason for those investments is we think there is a new wave of growth coming in '14 and beyond.

Snapshot in 2012, roughly $500 million in revenue, OEBITDA of $63 million, OEBITDA margins of 13%, our dividend payout as a percentage of historical core free cash flow 70% and a very strong balance sheet, $130 million in cash with zero debt.

At its core, WWE has always been about creating IP, new characters, new shows and then monetizing it across every platform that exists, selling tickets of live events, Pay-Per-View buys, licensing our television shows globally, action figures in the toy market, home entertainment, 30 DVDs a year, so if a platform exists, we are able to monetize across it and we've got a lot of success doing that.

Since 2006, we've grown our TV licensing at a 9% CAGR, our consumer product licensing business had a 6% CAGR and our emerging markets primarily LATAM and APAC had a 6% CAGR.

In 2012, early '13, we had set a lot of operational goals for ourselves and we had a lot of successes. We said we wanted to put more hours of primetime TV, so in 2012, we launched our third hour of RAW, we launched Main Event on Ion TV, and we launched a Saturday morning kids show on the CW.

We also said, we wanted to take advantage of the proliferation of distribution platforms and we signed licensing deals over the last 12 months with Hulu, YouTube and Yahoo. India continues to be one of our largest television markets and one of our focuses is growing our consumer products business there. So this year, we started launching new toy lines specifically designed for the Indian market at different price points.

We had the number two action figure in the United States last year. One of the categories where we haven’t played in is construction and it happens to be the fastest growing subcategory within the Toy segment. We signed a deal with The Bridge Direct. We will be introducing some really exciting products in that category. So we are real happy about the operational achievements in 2012.

We started the year saying we were going to do these things and we were able to. 2012 also saw OEBITDA growth by about 20%, so while we continue to make the investments I mentioned, we were able to have it successfully and financially. Now let’s talk about the strength, the core competencies as a company and we do that, we really talk about five key things.

Number one, a powerful global brand; number two, a very strong competitive position; number three, a content rich company and really critical for the future; number four, a large global addressable market and number five, an attractive financial profile. So let’s take these one by one.

Just about any metric you use and we picked a few here, but there is a lot more, WWE is a powerful global brand. We are in a 150 countries. We have a 1.5 billion video views over the last 12 months on YouTube. John Cena is the number three followed athlete on Facebook, almost 15 million followers. We are the number one cable show on the number one cable network, whatever metric you use powerful global brand.

Competitive position and again you could use a lot of metrics. We picked one that we think is important. You can see up on the screen are the top watched cable networks in the United States. USA is number one and it's been there for about seven years, averaged about 3 million viewers. ESPN, number three, they average about 2.4 million viewers and then AdultSwim, just to give a little bit of the scale, is the number 10 network in the US averaged about 1.4 million viewers. So how does WWE compare?

SmackDown averaged just over 3 million viewers, so it averaged more viewers in primetime than the number one cable network in the US average in primetime. It more than doubled the average primetime viewership of the number 10 network. What about our new one show? Well that is pretty amazing. Over 50% more viewers in primetime on average than the number one cable network.

Now obviously that 4.7 is part of USA's 3 million because that's our home and I mentioned that they had been number one for seven years. Interestingly, it coincides for the amount of time we've been on USA. We make networks number one. And if you want to compare RAW's viewership to the number 10 network, more than triple the average primetime viewership of the number 10 network, so very strong competitive content.

We are also a content-rich company. We've a 100,000 hour library and we are adding to it every year and unlike other content companies, we own 100% of the rights. Yes, we do license the rights and window it to our broadcast partners for example, but we own a 100% of the rights, no back end participation and that's important because we view the future one of the [mega trends] is as the proliferation of distribution outlets for content growth that drives up the price of content and we've seen that.

We've seen it in growth in affiliate fees. We've seen it in the growth of the feed space for sports rides, for scripted programming. So we think the confluence of our ownership and the growth in content value all goes well for us.

A large addressable market, in the U.S. there is 92 million digital homes. Roughly half of them have some sort of affinity to WWE. About 9% describe themselves and actually con prove it and we do some pretty intensive research and surveys as hard core WWE fans, so 9% roughly of the homes in the U.S.

About 25% are casual fans. They watch our shows, may be not as intensely as those passionate fans and then about 18% are lapse fans. So at some point they were WWE fans. That's over half of the homes in the U.S. If you looked at a breakup, demographic breakup, we are multigenerational, that's how our fans enjoy the content, the kids watching with their parents and their grandparents and that's demonstrated in the viewership data on age.

In terms of gender, we are about 64% male and about 36% female. We have about 14 million viewers a week. So when you look at that female number for example, that's four to five million women watching the shows every week. That's more than the top shows on TLC, Oxygen and V. Those are female-centric networks, our shows beat them.

And I talked about this large addressable market in the U.S. I said roughly 9% passion, about 25% casual, about 18% lapse, we are doing the same type of intensive research across our top 20 markets around the world and interestingly you see similar breakouts. One that always strikes me is Mexico, almost 80% of the homes in Mexico are either hard core fans, casual or lapse and in fact if you look at the data so far, we are about through 14 markets or so. Mexico has the highest percentage of hard core fans. So we are really excited about the opportunity there.

Finally an attractive financial profile. We have a diversity of revenue streams from both a platform and geography perspective. We generate economics in 40 countries. Our top five markets include the U.S. the U.K., India, Mexico, Germany, so it rotates from time to time, but all across the world and from a platform perspective, they range from -- our revenues range from 17% to 29% from our different platforms. So there is a lot of diversity there.

Second time margins, our gross margins in the 40s, variable margins in the 70s. Number three, our core business has very low CapEx intensity. Historically it's been in the $10 million to $15 million per quarter maintenance CapEx and then finally strong free cash flow. Over the last few years average free cash flow in our core business is roughly $50 million.

So now the future, I mentioned it before our business model is simple and concept typical to execute, but simple and concept, we create IP, characters, shows, brands. We engage our audience through traditional platforms as well as emerging platforms. We have over 150 million followers on Twitter and Facebook. That's more than the NFL and its 32 teams combined. This is one benchmark.

And then finally we monetize across all the platforms that exists. So our business model is fairly simple conceptually, again difficult to execute. As we move forward, we think there are three really big opportunities; one, the launch of a network; two, the renegotiation of our four largest content agreements and three, developing digital products to monetize that large digital audience that I talked about. So over the next two to three years that is a core focus for the company.

Let’s talk about the network. What we've said is we've had a successful Pay-Per-View business. In fact, we launched the Pay-Per-View business in the United States. Wrestlemania 1 was the first Pay-Per-View in the U.S., 29 years ago. We are going to re-imagine the Pay-Per-View business.

We are going to take 11 of our 12 Pay-Per-Views, Wrestlemania will continue to be a Pay-Per-View and move it to a subscription network. We are going to use that 100,000 hour library, as well as our current production capacity to program a 24X7 network and sell it on a subscription basis to our audience. Price point somewhere between $12.99 and $14.99, similar to an HBO, so today our Pay-Per-View that frankly is pretty expensive can be $45 in SG, $55 in HC, so for 11 of those during the 500 to 600, and frankly we know that, that kind of narrow caps our audience because of the high price point.

We are going to take that our best content, move it to a price point that's easy to afford, we've done a lot of research, we've received a real positive feedback, we've done research on the concepts of the network and who would buy it and to try to it and also we've developed shows already that are in the can and tested and have got really strong feedback.

At two million subscribers on a steady state basis, it would be fairly transformational for WWE, EBITDA somewhere in the range of $50 million to $100 million incrementally, at 3 million to 4 million subscribers it really changes the business completely. So there is a lot of focus within the company on bringing this to fruition.

The second key growth driver for us is our four largest content agreement, RAW in the U.S., SmackDown in the U.S., our content agreement in the U.K., and our content agreement in India. Those four represent roughly two thirds of our entire television licensing business and they will be renegotiated over the next couple of years. We think the global rise in the value content positions us very well.

Just in the U.S., we've done a lot of benchmarking of both scripted dramas as well as sports packages. On the scripted drama side, you see roughly $0.20 to $0.40 per viewer hour being paid for scripted drama. So that really takes us how many hours as it gets shown by the network and how many viewers does it generate per hour and when you do the math, it's roughly $0.20 to $0.40.

Similarly on sports-rights packages, whether it's NASCAR, the recent NHL deal, the recent EPL deal, the recent U.S. Open tennis deal, MLB, it's basically the values float somewhere between $0.40 and $1.25 per viewer hour. Sports versus scripted drama has one great characteristic, so lot of hours and it's live, so it's somewhat DVR approved, a lot like WWE content.

We kind of share the same a lot of characteristic between scripted drama and sport. We are live. We have over 300 hours a year programming. Like scripted entertainment we have characters and story line. So we think these benchmarks all go well for our shows, both domestically and internationally because if you look at that internally, the numbers are different, but the opportunity is similar.

And then finally the monetization of digital content, I talked about the size of our audience. Socially now, Facebook and Twitter, 150 million followers, more than the NFL and its 32 teams combined. John Cena is the third most followed athlete in the world. You can use 13 to 14 million unique on our website and mobile app. We did 1.5 billion video views on YouTube. So it was this big social audience engaging with us and we think there's opportunities to monetize there. So that's another big part of our strategy.

If we are successful, we think over the next two to three years or by the end of 2015, we could double or triple OEBITDA and we see growth across all the segments as we drive across those three strategies. The only one where we would see lack of growth would probably be Pay-Per-View because again we would be transitioning that business to a subscription video-on-demand model.

And what about beyond that, so we don’t have the luxury of just focusing on the next two to three years. We have to look beyond that and as we look beyond that, there really is a story of some emerging markets for us. Since 2004, we've doubled our international business, so had a lot of success and we've done it by really employing a fairly consistent model. We enter a market with our television contract, then we bring live events, then we bring consumer products. So for a country like the U.K. where we've been in there for 20-plus years, that's a $30-plus million market.

Country like India and Mexico sits in the several million dollars. We've made a lot of investments in China and Brazil and Russia. We've been in China for five years. We are now in over 150 million TV homes and growing. We think not in the next two to three years but that next wave of growth that those investments begin to pay off like they have in other countries.

And as you watch us, I tell folks you should just keep an eye on four things. You should be able to check off of four boxes that show that we are being successful in executing this strategy. Number one, we should see us making announcements about those four contracts that I talked about over the next 12 to 18 months. Number two, we should see us announce network carriage agreements and track the penetration as we reach those agreements in those markets. Number three, we should see us launching new digital products and having success with them. Number four, improve performance in our film portfolio.

If we do those things, over the next 18, 24 months, we feel really good about future and if leave you with three things, it's number one, there is a solid core business that continues to perform, this proven ability to create content and the external environment that's lining up with our strength in driving up the value of content.

So with that, I think we could open up the Q&A.

Unidentified Analyst

And George, you talked about this a bit, but in February when you released your business outlook that describes path for doubling or tripling WWE earnings by 2015, can you talk a little bit about those drivers to the fact that would be very substantial.

George Barrios

Sure. I mean, as I mentioned the three things that probably consume 80% of my time and some of the folks that are here with me are the launch of the network, those four key content agreements and the launch of digital products to monetize that audience. On the network side, the price point of $12.99 to $14.99 at two million subscribers it's somewhat of a game changer unless a cliché. At three to four million subscribers, it completely transforms the company.

Number two, our two most profitable assets RAW and SmackDown have agreements coming up; two in the U.S. one in the U.K. and one in India. In all those markets, we've delivered a lot of value to our partners and we've looked and seen what's happening with other packages and rights fees that are being negotiated. We think there is an opportunity for us and then three, that large digital audience, we have them, they engage with us, now it's really the path forward it's finding ways to monetize them. So we sell investors. That's what you should be focused on that we are making measurable progress on those.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes, I mean to that point the progress that you've made to-date and how should we -- how should we sit back and measure your progress in achieving that because if you tend to achieve that, that's going to be tremendous.

George Barrios

That's right. I think you know, we will be vocal about -- about those achievements. So I think when you see us announce a new deal, with new network partners, doing renewals with our current network partners in the U.S. that would be one. We are currently having a deal with BSkyB in the U.K., so if you see us either renegotiate that with you or potentially move somewhere else, I think we will talk about that.

So we will be talking about these renewals and I am not going to give dates, but I will say over the next 18 months, we are going to be under new agreements on all of those. So I think that there is not a long time to wait.

On the network, I think it's just us announcing carriage agreements. In the U.S. we've been working with carriers over the last 12 to 18 months on the terms of those -- of that carriage. It's as people who follow the industry know, those are tough discussions. So we continue to make progress on them.

We are also looking at potential launch of it internally, but I think the way to keep track is us making that announcements and I have to make the announcements just tracking the penetration in that particular system. Obviously the numbers I talked about on the network is on a fully distributed basis in the U.S., but you can track the penetration level. I mean two million subs is essentially 2% penetration in digital homes rough math.

So if we announce with MVPD that and we are getting 2% with them, other people are going to take it up because that's a real game changer in terms of shipping our Pay-Per-View business for us and the MVPD. So I think you would say boy, that's looking good. So it's keeping track of that.

And then finally on the digital products, we've had a -- we launched our mobile app and had about five million downloads. We launched a mobile game called Rockpocalypse with one of our key superstars, The Rock. We launched a game application platform called Superfan Showdown. So those are all kind of our first foray. We know we are going to learn. We know we are going to iterate, but the key will be, can you engage your fans?

We know what -- let me change that. We know we can engage the fans. The key will be can you monetize them, but again we will be talking about the launches as well as the performance over time. So I think people who follow us know that we are pretty transparent on our metrics and our performance. So we are going to keep investors updated.

Unidentified Analyst

Great. Can we have questions from investors.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

Hi, the per viewer hour right now, if you disclosed what you are getting right now or...

George Barrios

No, we don’t. What I will say is that it's lower than what's on rough figures on those pages for both the scripted entertainment is lowest. We are trying to [feed] them, so that's where we feel we have an opportunity, but we don’t disclose the actual number.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible)

George Barrios

And by the way, just so you follow the math, I'll give you the NHL, which is -- because it's easy math to follow. The NHL package is roughly 350 hours a year and it's averaged about 600,000 viewers. That's roughly 200 million viewers. They get about $200 million for that. So you are bought a bucket of viewers. So that's kind of the math if you want to do it, that's how you do the math and again those numbers are the best numbers we have. Doesn’t mean that they are perfectly right, but we think they are more than directional.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible)

George Barrios

...and for what, for us? You know, we don’t give that data out, but our shows RAW is live, so it's broadcast live and some vast majority of the viewership is watched live as a percent DVR. SmackDown is not live is what we called positively live, because it feels live when you watching it and also the vast majority of that is watched live. Some DVRs certainly, but the vast majority is one of the -- like sports it's one of the nice attributes if you are programming.

Unidentified Analyst

For the digital, back there in the back, for the digital and gamification platform, how do you see that growth internationally and outside of North America as far as the mix going forward and what are some of the opportunities and challenges in that space?

George Barrios

Sure. Well, from a mix standpoint, if you looked at our digital audience, roughly 60% of it is from outside the U.S. a little bit higher in social, but in that range. So it's a global audience like it is from our product generally. It manifests itself digitally. The economics though as we know, both from an advertising perspective and subscription perspective, the center of gravity around the world continues to be the U.S. a much larger economic market.

So I think engagement should probably look like the audience looks 60% or so, 70%. I think monetization at least in the short term will be weighted towards the U.S. but yes, we are really bullish about our international growth and as we've -- 20 years ago we probably had zero international revenues. I mentioned 2004, we doubled it. So we feel really good. We like the diversity, we love that.

Mexico had such a high percentage of fans. We do really well in India, which experience drive people as kind of almost a non-cyclical, but -- so we feel good about that and I would tell you one of the things that makes me happy is I know how large our TV deal is India and I know how well we do there and I think we made $0.10 last year in consumer products.

That's not going to be like that for ever. The consumer products industry is evolving pretty quickly in India, both from a commercial standpoint as well as from a legal standpoint who can enter the market and sell and again that's as long as the brand is strong there, that's going to be a good story for us five years or so.

Unidentified Analyst

Also can you talk a little bit about the consumer products and the source of revenue and earnings growth and has there been any change to its perspective. We also had some announcements with -- in India with your Toy line and also with The Bridge developed WWE toys within the construction category which was a pretty hot category in the toys.

George Barrios

Sure. Large consumer products has been an engine of growth for us. Over the last couple of years you've seen some lumpiness in the business primarily driven through the performance of our video game. So in 2008 and we did almost seven million combined units and video game sales and that's declined somewhat over the last couple of years and we also had years where we had two video game titles so therefore we had higher units of retail versus just our core franchise WWE.

As most people follow us know our partner, which have been struggling for the last couple of years THQ declared bankruptcy and at that point WWE was free and I am not going to get into the legal imaginations, but was free to find a new partner. As one could imagine, we have a franchise game that comes out every year. It's slightly more than 50 million units globally since its inception. So it's a core franchise. People want it.

We ended up taking Take-Two Interactive. We were really impressed with their focus on brand. They are focused on game quality, gaming is one of those -- recently has been one of the sectors where when you look at the scores that the critics give the games, it tends to correlate pretty strongly with the sales of the game and we like frankly take to focus on that and we like to get our game scores up.

We've been in Metacritic score, it's been in the high 70's, which is good, but we aspire the great as an -- the NBA has been the high 80's, low 90's and that's another Take-Two property and we really focused a lot on kind of the case study of Take-Two's partnership with the NBA because we think there is some analogue there in terms of the brand and so on.

So the video game has been a little bit of up and down over the last couple of years. In the future we think that has a lot of opportunity now that we are with Take-Two, it's a strong partner. To give you another example about in of their last earnings call, their CEO said about 25% of their revenues was from digital content. Currently if you look at our video game, it's around the 5% level.

So we think there is just opportunity there and we think Take-Two is the right partner. So it's a long winded way of saying or talking about the last couple of years in consumer products, but into the future, you know we feel really good about the model globally. It gets the TV content working, inculcates the brand, live events helps strengthen that personal connection, it's one of the few -- you know, it's a real differentiator that few people have, close to 300 live events and then continue to monetize with consumer products.

So we believe that model will keep going and I mentioned that's a real big opportunity, not this year and next, but three years out, we are starting to do more things in India. You mentioned our recent Toy lines that we work with [Metal] we absolutely feel we need to have different price points in India, so we work with Metal on developing a four-inch figure -- action figure to add a lower price point for us and I think we still have to go even lower, but it's a start, so we are doing creative things like that.

Unidentified Analyst

But how is the relationship with Metal been going for you?

George Barrios

It's good. You know if you listen to their calls, they talk about us. We were their number one branded product or license product. We've been there kind of Total, their beachhead into the Boy category and obviously Metal always had a real strong growth position. So they feel good about us and we feel good about what they had -- what they have.

You know, when we evaluate it, Metal versus all the other toy companies, we thought we love their passion around product development and we are seeing a lot of new products from them, which we are excited about. We like their distribution power. So, so far so good with Metal.

Unidentified Analyst

Right. Okay.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible).

George Barrios

Yes, if you will, the program grid for the network will center around our monthly Pay-Per-View, so those will become the culminating events of storylines and so on. We are also going to create retrospective content from our library. So that's not just running library footage. That's creating kind of compelling stories around past areas of WWE.

So for example one of the series that we've created is called the Monday Night War, so it's takes a look back at both what's happened inside the ring and outside the ring when Vince McMahon and Ted Turner were battling in the late 90s, so that will be a 15 episode series thereabouts and it's tested really well. So that's an example of content of mining our library.

What we are also going to do in the original content, I mean for example we announced a reality series with E! recently called Total Divas, it's a reality series anchored around our Diva superstars, so we know we can create reality series. I think you would see things like that on the network. So it will be a different flavour than RAW and SmackDown, which will be our anchored programme and broadcast lively. The network will be for those hard core casual may be some less fans to get that little bit extra at a price front that we think is just a lot more interesting than that $45 or $55 monthly [slide], which we think is just tougher for big player to consume.

Unidentified Analyst

Could you talk a little bit about the talent pipeline and where you think you are in terms of your current curve right now? Sometimes it's -- there is pretty hot talent pool and sometimes it takes time to go about it? Where are you now?

George Barrios

That's right. There is an ebb and flow to it. We think we are on an upswing. I mean, we have [10 of our talent] folks like, John Cena number three most followed athlete on Facebook, we have Undertaker, so we have that core kind of iconic talent that's over the last 12 months or so. We've introduced a lot of new talent. One example is we had seven talent who had not been with WWE perform at Wrestlemania, which is our largest event.

So we have that at Wrestlemania 29 was at MetLife Stadium. We broke MetLife Stadium's record in terms of attendance and growth. You too have the old records and they are showing 2011 we kind of shattered it. They did 8 million growth, we did 12 million at the event. It was the highest growth in event and we had seven new talents that had not been out.

So that to us is a key metric set because we would have put in talent at Wrestlemania unless we thought they could deliver the goods at our number one show. So the fact that we've got so many new talent like Ryback or Sheamus or Alberto Del Rio, you can yet pronounce it Cuban, but I struggle there. All that new talent that is resonating with our fans, we feel good. I wouldn’t say we are at the apex, but I think we are on a good upswing.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible)

George Barrios

Sure, yes, well first it's the plus or minus 10%. As I mentioned before, we continue to make the investments that I talked about in both zapping and production, both for our current content and new content for the network. So that's why you are seeing that. As far as the big swings for us, is we have very high operating leverage. So gross margins in the 40% to 45% but variable margins in the low to mid 70's depending on the mix of revenues. So that means we had good translation when sales go up and it also means you get impacted a little bit more strongly when sales are down.

So I think that goes to the volatility issue, it really comes to that high operating leverage. So that business is like our licensing business which are almost in low 80s variable margin. If you don’t perform as well as you did the prior year, you get a fair kind of fifth headwind. So that becomes the issue for the wide range is that high variable margin.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible)

George Barrios

I can’t hear you. Yes, we haven’t kind of just aggregated the double or tripling opportunity among the three. Obviously we put some data there on the network to get a sense of range of motion. I would say the network probably has the biggest opportunity followed by those key contract renewals and the Digital Medias would be third one on the list. So that's the way I would order them, but we haven’t gone into breaking it out between that any further than that.

Unidentified Analyst

(inaudible)

George Barrios

Yes, if we are successful, we think by the end of 2015, we should be able to see that and obviously we got to be successful. You can talk about what the market opportunity is on the renewals. You got to be able to negotiate those deals. You can talk about what surveys have shows for takeaways on the networks and actually have them manifest itself. You can talk about all this audience engagement. You got to come out with products that people are willing to pay.

So I don’t want to minimize the challenge. We think we are starting from a good place which is big audience engaged with us and generally external environment and content seems to be rising. So you know, we like our odds, but it's a challenge moving forward.

Unidentified Analyst

And I think we are -- just met our time here. So thank you very much.

George Barrios

Thank you, Greg. Thanks everybody for the questions.

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