WWE, the big wrestling-focused entertainment company, dropped 9% in revenues to $263.5 million in the first quarter due to lack of live events and lower merchandise sales.
Live event revenue sank 97% to $500,000, from $17 million in the year before period. A year ago, it held 41 events in the first quarter of 2020.
Some of this decline was offset by a March 18 deal for the WWE Network, which launched on NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock.
The deal also includes premium content: live pay-per-views, original series and in-ring shows. Plus, WWE extended a deal with USA Network, a NBCU cable network, for its “NXT” two-hour live show.
Also contributing were higher video-game revenue royalties, as well as better merchandise sales -- up 24% to $21 million from $4.1 million in the year-earlier period.
In the second quarter (April 10-11), “WrestleMania” in Tampa Bay, Florida pulled a combined 51,350 fans -- the first WWE live event since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago. “WrestleMania” week viewership grew 14% from the prior year’s event to nearly 1.1 billion video views across digital and social platforms.
Total WWE first-quarter digital video views slipped 2% to 9.4 billion. Total hours -- across digital and social platform -- grew 7% to 367 million.
Although revenue declined, WWE witnessed rising net income in the period -- up 68% to $43.8 million (from $26.2 million in the year-ago period), due to lower charges related to certain equity investments. Cash flow dipped slightly to $53.8 million from $57.6 million.
After-market Thursday closing saw WWE stock rising 5% to $59.00.