Adjusting to a landscape never before seen, WWE were able to increase revenue in 2020 compared to 2019, their Reports Record revealed.
Ahead of Thursday’s financials call, WWE released their financial records which highlighted the key areas of gain and loss for WWE throughout 2020 – most notably the absence of live crowds and the larger spectacles such as the Saudi Arabia events.
Full Year 2020 Highlights (All comparisons are versus the prior year period unless stated otherwise)
- WWE produced live, in-ring content without interruption throughout the year, demonstrating the Company’s ability to adapt to COVID-19 and unprecedented industry challenges.
- Revenue was $974.2 million, an increase of 1% or $13.8 million as the growth in core content rights fees was largely offset by the loss of ticket revenue and the absence of a large-scale international event.
- Operating income was $208.6 million, an increase of 79% or $92.1 million, driven by the substantial rise in content rights fees, which have a high incremental margin.
- Adjusted OIBDA reached a record $286.2 million, an increase of 59% or $106.2 million.
- Digital video views were 38.0 billion, an increase of 10%, and hours consumed were 1.4 billion, an increase of 10%, across digital and social media platforms.
It’s clear that the Covid pandemic has had both positive and negative impacts on WWE. Positively, we see digital views increased by 10% and media revenue up 17% driven by the growth of RAW and SmackDown content.
However it’s not all green lights, with the pandemic changing the business model entirely, WWE saw a fall of 84% in revenue for live events which equates to $105.7 million worse off that previous years. There were 42 ticketed events held in 2020 compared to 310 in 2019.
This lack of a live audience also decreased merchandise sales, which fell 6% on the year driven by the absence of live audience sales.
An interesting statistic is the WWE Network figures. In a year which many found themselves at home more than ever, WWE didn’t appear to have capitalised on potential new customers to it’s flagship Network. Reporting that there was an average 1.6 million paid subscribers in 2020, a flat figure on the year before.
2021 will see a gradual return of live audiences at WWE events. We’re seeing small pockets appear at NXT shows and WWE have announced that this years WrestleMania in Tampa will have live crowds. Done safely, this can only benefit both sides, with WWE hoping for a healthier financial year ahead and the WWE Universe hoping for a safe, fun return to live events.