Fewer wrestling fans have been purchasing the pay-per-view events produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), first-quarter financial data from the company suggest. Figures show that this year's PPV buys for Royal Rumble, Fastlane and Wrestlemania are all down compared to last year.
Numbers show that only 145,000 chose to stay at home to watch the 210 Royal Rumble compared to some 467,00 pay-per-view buys last year. This year's Fastlane also paled in comparison to the previous year's Elimation Chamber, 46,000 to 183,000 PPVs respectively, while the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania attracted 690,000 buys -- far higher than this year's 259,000 subscriptions.
Despite these numbers, the company believes it achieved significant growth in the past year, mainly because of the successful launch of the WWE Network, which to date has attracted more than 1.3 million subscribers -- likely accounting for the lower pay-per-view numbers. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon said the company recorded “strong earnings growth,” which was driven by its strategy to transcend multiple platforms.
“Our strong earnings growth was driven primarily by the escalation of our television rights fees and the expansion of WWE Network subscribers. For the quarter, our OIBDA surpassed our public guidance,” George Barrios, WWE's chief strategy and financial officer, said on the company’s official website. “WWE Network subscribers watch an estimated average of 53 hours of content per household over the quarter, putting it among Netflix and the top cable and broadcast networks in terms of viewer hours per household.” [OIBDA is a financial term that means operating income before depreciation and amortization.]
The company plans further expansion for its network as it approaches the second half of 2015. McMahon has directed his executives to implement a five-part strategy geared at creating new content and extending media distribution. The WWE Network is looking to enter new markets such as India, China, Germany, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia after successfully launching in Europe and the Middle East.
The company also enjoyed its highest stock price this year, at $31 per share. The WWE’s stock currently sits at $15 per share, up from $13 per share April 1.