Andrew Whitaker – Banff Keynote - June 2011
WWE: Building A Global Entertainment Franchise
Hello everyone, thanks very much for coming along this morning – and thanks to
Robert Montgomery and all at the World Television Festival for the honor of
inviting me to speak today.
I’ll try not to take up too much of your time today – and I will try to be as
interesting as possible – sadly I can’t compete with Ricky Gervaise in comedy
value or with William Shatner in “legend” status.
Banff asked me to talk about how WWE has gone about building it’s unique
brand of “Americana” into a truly global entertainment franchise; how we have
taken what was a North East United States regional wrestling franchise and
transformed it into an international entertainment phenomenon. I’ll try to do that
as succinctly as I can – and afterwards I would be delighted to take any
questions that you may have.
As some of you may know, WWE is now a fully integrated multi platform, NYSE
listed global media company. We’ve been publicly traded since 1999 and have a
market cap today of around 1.3 billion dollars. In 2009 our annual revenues were
$475 million - of this total revenue figure a quarter of it was generated by our
international business. This compares with around 10% eight years ago.
We are an international company with offices in Stamford, Connecticut, New
York, LA, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Singapore – truly
a global organization!
This diversity is further emphasized by the make up of our executive
management team – it is drawn from the NY Times, the NFL, NBA, US Tennis
Association, Disney, Fox News and I myself spent a good deal of time at NBC
many moons ago!
WWE has 4 core business areas which are broadly broken down into live events
and televised entertainment, consumer products, digital media and most recently
our WWE Studios business.
WWE as a brand has 4 key equities that have really contributed to making it what
it is today. It’s very simple, we have iconic Superstars, compelling storylines, a
passionate fan base and we appeal across all generations and cultures.
At this point I’d like to take the opportunity to show you our sizzle reel – a brief
synopsis in visual form that should give you a real flavor of what we are about.
[CUE SIZZLE REEL VIDEO]
You can clearly see from that reel that as a brand WWE has some pretty
compelling key attributes – we’re entertaining, we’re fun, we’re approachable,
we’re athletic and we’re humorous. What we strive to do is very simple – we
So how, as this international organization with these equities and attributes, have
we created a business of this brand? Well the answer is that we have used this
central brand to create content for our fan base wherever they want to access it -
we have built a multi platform global entertainment company.
We have 200 plus talent under contract, consisting of our Superstars, our Divas
and our Legends as well as our development talent down at Florida
Championship Wrestling. Triple H, John Cena, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve
Austin are some of the most recognizable talent our business has produced, and
our multi-platform presence means that we have been able to turn these WWE
Superstars into leading names in entertainment and pop culture.
We produce on average 6 live events per week featuring these Superstars – we
do this every week of the year, delivering more than 300 live events, of which
more than 70 are performed outside of the US.
2 of those 6 weekly shows are also TV shoots, which is how we create the 7
hours of original live event television programming that we distribute each week.
These shows include Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown, WWE NXT
and WWE Superstars.
The TV shows are, in their simplest form, “athletic soap operas”. They feature
the most elemental aspects of storytelling to draw in the audience and get them
to invest in the characters and storylines we create. This formula works
wonderfully well; so well in fact that RAW is the longest running scripted
entertainment show in American Television history – there have been more
episodes of Raw than of Lassie, Gunsmoke, Mash to name just a few. Truly a
testament to the appeal of our characters and storylines.
Our television programming is available in 145 countries in 30 different
languages and in the US alone we deliver more than 15 million viewers each
week. It is truly a global television property.
Using this footprint we also deliver 13 PPV events each year which generate
over 5 million PPV and VOD buys globally - generating tens of millions of dollars
in revenue per annum. WWE is the world leader in Pay-Per-View Event
We have more than 200 licensing partners around the world creating a hugely
successful consumer products business. This is best typified by our new
breakthrough global toy partnership with Mattel.
We develop perennial licensing programs that are supported by market leading
retailers at pivotal points in WWE's annual calendar, giving them a real sense of
ownership. Just as we do with our TV product, we develop products for specific
countries. For example, there remains limited console proliferation throughout
Asia so in partnership with our licensee THQ we are developing an online game
to counter this challenge and adapt to how the consumer engages with video
games across the region
So it’s not just toys, it’s video games, it’s apparel, it’s publishing, in fact WWE has
had 23 books that have been featured on the New York Times best seller list.
We have an incredible website offering a hugely rich online experience – which
each month has 13 million unique visitors generating 413 million page views.
WWE.com was ranked #3 for Most Searched terms on Yahoo! In 2009, behind
ONLY Michael Jackson and Twilight. Fans aren’t just accessing our content
online they can also read WWE magazine which has over 5.4 million readers per
year, with local language versions produced for some of our top international
markets such as France and Germany.
As an extension of that WWE Kids – our youth oriented website and magazine –
has an audience of over 650,000 - the core fan base of tomorrow.
WWE Music group generates original releases available on iTunes and Amazon
and our Home Entertainment business brings to market 30 DVD releases a year
and a catalogue of more than 100 titles. In the US, WWE had seven of the top
10 titles in the Sports charts in the first quarter of 2010.
WWE has secured a wider range of blue-chip business partners, including
Mattel, Topps, 7-Eleven, Pepsi Max, Army National Guard, Slim Jim/ConAgra,
Kmart, Toys ‘R Us, JC Penney, Unilever/Axe and Castrol.
The final element of our multi-platform business is the newest and most
innovative of recent times. Bear with us a moment while we show you these two
[CUE LEGENDARY AND KNUCKLEHEAD THEATRICAL TRAILERS]
WWE Studios has created a slate of 9 movies which will be produced and
released over the next 3 years. These titles will feature not only WWE
Superstars but also a host of established and respected Hollywood talent. The
likes of Ed Harris, Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover, Mike Rappaport, Wendy
Malik and Dennis Farina feature in our early titles.
The first title - Legendary – will be theatrically released in September. It’s a
moving and thought provoking, inspirational family drama in the vein of “The
Blind Side” and “Karate Kid” and stars Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover and
Superstar John Cena.
Our second movie -Knucklehead – will be theatrically released in the fall and is a
high concept family comedy staring Mark Feuerstein from Royal Pains on USA;
Melora Hardin from The Office; Wendy Malick from Just Shoot Me; Dennis
Farina; and WWE Superstar Big Show
Subsequent titles will include thrillers, dramas and bio-pics – all family focused to
appeal to our core audience.
So you can see that from this core brand, with these iconic Superstars and Divas
and compelling storylines we have been able to create platform-specific offerings
to enable our passionate fan base to access our brand in any way they want.
I want to focus a little more on some of those core areas because they are worth
expanding on to give you a flavor or how we work in each space. First let’s focus
on our television programming:
As I mentioned earlier, with the shows that are produced for the US marketplace,
we have been able to create a television footprint in 145 countries and 30
different languages. In fact we distribute more than 7,500 hours of WWE TV
programming each year.
We have achieved this by having international offices dedicated to knowing the
international markets: Getting in market, meeting people, ultimately burning the
shoe leather to ensure that we continuously create the optimum television
exposure for our brand.
It’s not simply about revenue, it’s also about eyeballs. And this is how we have
created strong long term partnerships with some of the best broadcasters in the
world, ranging from TV Azteca and Televisa in Mexico, Ten Sports in India, MBC
in the Middle East, NT1 in France, Newscorp in UK, Germany, Italy, Turkey,
Australia and from North America our partners in Canada The Score, Global,
Viewer’s Choice, Shaw, Bell TV and Sask Tel (some of whom are in the room
today) as well as our broadcasters in America via NBC Universal with USA
Network and Syfy.
It’s important to note that we edit our content to make sure that it’s appropriate
for each market.
In the old “WWF” era when we were operating at the time as a small private
company in the late 80’s – this was in the days of Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik
and Andre The Giant – our International TV Distribution business was internally
known as “tape sales”. We literally sold the tapes that were produced for the US
market for a few million dollars per year.
Fast forward to today – when our TV production facility in Stamford creates 41
different edits of our programming to make sure we’re hitting the right spot on a
market by market basis. For example, you can’t show Diva matches on free TV
in Germany, you can’t show our Divas at all on free TV in the Middle East and an
Asian character can’t be seen to lose to non-Asians on TV in China.
This attention to detail ensures that the television broadcast is sustainable and
long term, providing the company with a platform for it’s other business areas.
It also builds a stronger appetite for the brand - two months ago WrestleMania 26
was broadcast around the world - hitting over 100 countries - truly a global
audience. This one day event generated total revenues of $28.8 million across
ticket sales, PPV and merchandise sales. 72,000 fans from all 50 states and 26
countries attended the sold out event in Phoenix, Arizona, outdrawing Super
Bowl 42 (71,101 attendance) in the same building
I mentioned earlier that Raw was the longest running scripted show in US TV
history. It has been able to achieve this, not only through the storylines and
characters but crucially by continuing to evolve to stay relevant to our viewers.
We’ve been able to do this by being creative, by altering our format to reflect the
mood of the time. For example, over the past year Raw has had a variety of
guest hosts on the show. It has been an incredibly well received concept and
had major stars eager to participate. The roll call is very impressive – it includes
fellow Banff attendee William Shatner. It also includes stars from sport and
entertainment, the likes of David Hasselhof, Shaquille O’Neal, Ozzy Osbourne
and his wife Sharon (who is an international television personality in her own
right), Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, World Boxing stars such as Floyd Mayweather,
Ricky Hatton and Mike Tyson, music icon Snoop Dogg, Jerry Springer and
Entourage’s Jeremy Piven to name just a few.
So you can see that WWE responds to trends, culture, and celebrities and
weaves this into our content.
WWE is also a leader in pop culture, initiating cultural moves and influencing
other media. WWE Talent has been featured in Celebrity Apprentice, Dinner:
Impossible, Saturday Night Live; The Weakest Link; Deal or No Deal; Project
Runway; American Idol; Iron Chef America; Psych; Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition, TMZ, the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Neighbours and MTV Cribs.
Before I move on to the next point just a couple of interesting things about our
fan demographics, which you may find surprising:
• more than a third of our audience is female.
• 40% of the audience is aged between 18 – 44
• and 73% of our audience is college educated
In fact I suspect there may even be a few fans in this audience, or parents of
So once we’ve established a strong television footprint in the market then our
modus operandi is to roll out our ancillary businesses in the territory. We look to
deliver our 13 PPV events on a transactional basis, which given that we are the
largest event PPV provider in the world, means that we have established a global
PPV business that generates over five million buys a year.
Whereas in the USA the Live Event business is the primary piece of the puzzle,
internationally this is not possible. Only a limited number of markets have the
available venues capable of hosting events of the magnitude of ours. This, when
coupled with the requisite logistics of our weekly TV production also preclude an
ongoing international tour.
Therefore our international live event business is primarily a way to market our
offering to our fans and to businesses in each territory we visit.
In the UK for example we hold two fourteen date tours each year. These give
fans the opportunity to live and breathe the programming they see on air each
and every week, as well as giving WWE a wonderful platform to demonstrate to
other organizations the power of the experience that WWE is able to deliver, be it
TV companies, FMCG firms, marketing organizations or sales agencies.
We also look to further support the TV brand with a presence in digital media
both online and on mobile. We partner with leading Telcos and aggregators in
each market to deliver a rich offering of downloadable content and video clips for
mobile users. We have partnerships with companies such as Telefonica, Orange
and Vodafone as well as working with our broadcast partners in the mobile
space. Our mobile content is currently delivered to 52 countries, spanning close
to 100 carriers worldwide. This means that we have a ubiquitous presence with
mobile operators on a global basis.
In addition, online we look to create local versions of WWE.com. Again it is
about enabling your fan base to access your brand in a localized and relevant
way. By appointing the best in class ad sales companies by market we ensure
that the ‘look and feel’ of our local sites engenders greater local relevance –
again an additional revenue stream. So in this instance we are not driving
Turkish fans to an English language site, which they may not be able to
understand, rather we are delivering the content they love in their local language.
I encourage each of you to enjoy wwe.tr
At retail we provide another consumer touchpoint. Fans can buy toys, trading
cards, video games, apparel and DVDs that directly relate to the programming
they see on air each and every week. Our global licensing deals with the likes of
Mattel and THQ means we maintain our exceptional quality standards across our
consumer product lines as well as having a marketing powerhouse working in
concert with us.
In 2008, WWE’s Global Consumer Product retail brand value was in excess of $1
One further element to touch upon, that underpins much of this, is a corporate
commitment to CSR programmes. Fundamental to this is our Make a Wish work
globally which we have been involved with since 1982. Since then WWE
Superstars have conducted more than 5,000 meet and greet sessions with ill
children. The CSR work also includes voter registration programmes in the US,
literacy programmes in the US, UK and Germany, Community Champion
programmes in Japan, supporting children’s hospitals in the UK, Australia and
New Zealand and anti bullying campaigns in the UK.
I hope that I’ve given you an understanding of the cornerstones of our
international operation. We’ve seen our international revenues grow year on
year and as I mentioned at the top international now accounts for over 25% of
our total income.
I hope this has given you a flavor of what WWE has done to build our global
franchise – ultimately we have sought to achieve that age old mantra – be global
in scope and local in impact.
We have taken our product international and made this unique slice of
Americana directly relevant to fans in each and every market around the world.
We’re not saying we’ve not made mistakes along the way – all brands inevitably
have their challenges – but we have continued to learn from our mistakes and to
work with our partners to go from strength to strength.
So at this point I’d like to invite you to ask any questions that you may have – I’ll
try my best to give you the right answers.
Thank you for your time.