SBD/May 16, 2014/Media

WWE Signs Deal To Keep Popular Shows On NBCU Networks As Company's Shares Slide

WWE in '13 earned $160.9M from broadcast rights, but downplayed the final figure
WWE shares on Thursday "fell after the company clinched an agreement with NBCUniversal to bring its popular wrestling shows, Raw and Smackdown, back to the NBC family," according to Chris Ciaccia of THE STREET. "Raw" goes "back to the USA Network," while "Smackdown" will run on Syfy. WWE expects that it will "potentially double or triple" its '12 OIBDA to a range of $125-190M by '15 (THESTREET.com, 5/15). VARIETY's Marc Graser cited analysts as saying that WWE "has been able to double the licensing fees for its shows." The company in '13 earned $160.9M "from broadcast rights around the world," and $139.5M in '12. However, WWE in a statement "significantly downplayed the final figure." Lawyers "have been working out windowing terms of when episodes would be available on mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones, as well as when they could be rebroadcast on the WWE Network, an all-digital streaming service the company launched in February." WWE "has been shopping for a new deal for its TV shows since January, and has sought to capitalize on the kind of coin live sports and events programming are commanding since they are considered DVR-proof and generate strong ratings." Deals for WWE’s series previously have been "brokered individually on a staggered timeline, usually every three to four years." But WWE "is making all of its shows available through new licensing deals at once" (VARIETY.com, 5/15). At presstime, shares of WWE were trading at $11.36 per share, down 43% from the close of business yesterday (THE DAILY).

FOR BETTER OR WORSE? BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jessika Walsten noted NBCU's WWE contract "was set to expire in October but the cabler's negotiating window ended in February, sparking speculation that the WWE was shopping its franchises to other distributors" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 5/15). PHILLY.com's Vaughn Johnson notes after "testing the waters elsewhere, the WWE decided to keeps its television rights where they currently lie." We "don’t know if WWE made off financially as well as it had hoped when its previous deal with NBCUniversal expired." What also "isn’t known is if the structure to how WWE currently presents its product will change" (PHILLY.com, 5/15).
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