As part of my ongoing look into the health of thee WWE as a company, I started collecting data from the annual financial reports available on the corporate WWE website. Although my first infographic gave a more complete picture of overall health, a request on Twitter suggested that there would be value in taking a deeper dive on various aspects of the WWE's current business. Today, I present my findings relating to the WWE's live event ticket sales, both domestically and internationally. Check out the new infographic, and stick around to read the good Doctor's expanded interpretation, below.
While I learned that my first infographic was entirely too long, and thus shortened this one, I did not learn my lesson regarding the overuse of graphs. Someday, I will figure out a more elegant way of expressing this information.
As for the topic at hand, it is plain to see that the WWE is doing quite well overall when it comes to attracting audiences to their live events. Despite this, the international market isn't performing as well as it could be, as evidence by comparing recent average ticket sales to those in 2010 and earlier.
The exact reason for this downturn is not clear. The first year with a serious decrease in international attendance was 2011. This coincided with the end of the first brand extension, and it is tempting to conclude that, with the merging of talent into a single roster, the WWE was forced to offer less live events and thus saw lowered ticket sales. This conclusion is easily dismissed, however, as the number of international live events didn't begin to decrease until 2012.
It seems that either international fan interest simply began to decrease in 2011, or that the venues booked were smaller and therefore not capable of holding as many people as in previous years. Without a full list of the venues, and knowledge of the maximum capacities of each, a clear conclusion cannot be made from the data provided in the financial reports.
In either case, the financial reports suggest that the WWE needs to renew their focus on international markets, and, with the global expansion of the WWE Network, the WWE has done exactly that. Bringing in popular international talents, like A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, The Club, and Shinsuke Nakamura has all been done to help attract international interest. Further, the recent UK Championship Tournament and the company's commitment to an ongoing UK television product both demonstrate that the WWE is already acting upon the need to hold more international events. I suspect that international performance will only increase throughout 2017.
Longtime DDT Wrestling podcast listeners will know that DC and myself have little regard for the nay-saying, ratings-mongering mentality that seems so pervasive within online professional wrestling fan communities. Common knowledge seems to suggest that the WWE's television ratings are down versus where they were at the end of the attitude era, and that surely the company is doing much worse today than they were ten or fifteen years ago.
With these ideas in mind, my doctoral instincts kicked in and I poured over all of the available annual financial statements available on the WWE Corporate website (corporate.wwe.com). I collected a ton of relevant (and some not-so-relevant) data, put together a spreadsheet, and began sifting through the numbers to see what the real trends actually are.
Although I feel like the overly WWE-negative mindset has somewhat quieted within online communities over the course of the past year, I offer the infographic below as a final argument against that mentality. I cover a number of topics in what I hope is an approachable way, all the while showing the actual reported numbers as tallied by the WWE. Topics range from profits (net income), to TV ratings and revenue, live event ticket sales, WWE subscription revenue, and net revenue before expenses. Enjoy!
The real issue with the WWE that I don't quite cover in the infographic is that it is an expense-heavy business. This is simply the reality of the business, given the need to tour and set up live events all over the world, and to continue to invest in the digital infrastructure which supports the WWE Network. 2014 is an excellent example of this, as you can see that annual revenue in 2014 was equal to the highest periods of the last ten years (excluding 2015. which saw the explosive success of the WWE Network in its second year of release).
In 2014, the investment into the WWE Network was so extensive that those near-record revenues were completely offset by expenses. At the time, a lot of energy was put into arguments that the sky was falling for the WWE's business plan, so much so that such people failed to notice that the WWE had provided guidance that such losses were to be expected that year. The fact that 2015 was considerable better, and that 2016 will likely be better still, is not surprising, given these numbers.
I look forward to the end of March 2017, when the 2016 annual financial report will be made available, and we can begin to see what performance we can expect out of the WWE Network longer-term now that its launch is beginning to enter into the more-distant past.