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.