Will Vince McMahon's stockholders guarantee be as safe as the ones he gave under his wrestling character Mr. McMahon? What do you think Cagesiders? (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images)
Last Friday, WWE had their annual stockholders meeting, which promised to be a challenging affair after losing $8.6 million in the final quarter of 2011 thanks to major losses from their movie division, causing their stock to tumble below $8 per share for the first time in almost a decade. Vince McMahon came prepared and tried to fend off criticism with the clever line that there are two things you can't avoid in life, death and taxes, but he was adding a third, a guarantee that the company will report improved operating results at the next meeting in 2013. It's a risky promise, with still much uncertainty over the long term future of their film studios and planned network, but coming off the record success of WrestleMania 28 it is one McMahon should be able to keep.
McMahon doesn't expect the losses from WWE Studios will be quite so big this year, as they are in the process of cleaning up the division. Michael Luisi, its new President, is diversifying the advertising, content and distribution of their films. They aren't going to stick with only producing PG feel good family flicks, but will now also make PG-13 or R-rated movies in any genre. They're also going to spend less on a yearly basis, but still in the order of $15-20 million on several new projects, by teaming up with partners (who'll probably know what they're doing better than the amateurs at WWE) and buying the rights to ready made movies so they can spread their financial risk and keep costs down to a minimum. Though they still plan to do movies featuring WWE performers, most notably a restart of the Leprechaun horror series featuring Hornswoggle and The Marine 3 starring The Miz, they're also going to make movies with no WWE star presence, with the idea being that the latter can appeal to the wider public, which will help out their other releases.
WWE is also hopeful of finding new homes in the United States for NXT and Superstars, whose cancellations from Syfy and WGN, respectively, has cost them about $10 million a year in lost TV licensing fees. The fact that WWE is currently looking for potential buyers for these shows tells you all you need to know about how the WWE network is coming along. They've become a lot more cautious about this project and it seems more like an aspiration at this point than something that will get off the ground anytime soon.
The only other interesting note from the Q&A session was McMahon when asked about the price of UFC PPVs in comparison with WWEs saying that "UFC's PPVs have dropped like a rock. Ours haven't.", which makes for a nice soundbite but is a gross exaggeration of the truth. UFC's recent PPV decline is more due to injuries and the right matches not coming off than a huge loss of interest in the product, while WWE's have dropped like a rock in the past and were continuing to decline until the returns of The Rock and Brock Lesnar stopped the rot for the time being at least, but they both come with a hefty price tag.