WWE targets double the growth from India on media rights values

WWE, the world’s biggest wrestling entertainment company, is eyeing big growth from the Indian-Subcontinent market. After concluding multi-million dollar deals with Comcast-owned…

Jinder Mahal - InsideSport

WWE, the world’s biggest wrestling entertainment company, is eyeing big growth from the Indian-Subcontinent market. After concluding multi-million dollar deals with Comcast-owned USA Network and Fox Sports, sports entertainment brand WWE is looking to boost its international broadcast revenue from the markets like India.

WWE said that it expects to conclude the India deal during the first half of 2019. Although this agreement could be secured either before or after this date, the management believes that this range represents the most likely periods for such communication.

Currently, Sony Pictures Networks India, courtesy its acquisition of Ten Sports Network from ZEEL, holds the broadcast rights of WWE for the Indian market till 2019. Ten Sports, now branded Sony Ten following the acquisition by Sony Pictures Network, has been the home of WWE in India since 2002. WWE has inked the latest 5-year deal in 2014 and it was reportedly valued at $50 million.

The Indian sports broadcast market has two key players in Star India and Sony with Discovery Communications India’s DSport being the fringe player with no big sporting right in their portfolio.

Along with the three broadcasters, WWE is also tipped to target some key OTT platforms in the country along with possible tie-ups with Facebook, Amazon and Youtube.

“Management recognises the transformative nature of these agreements and expects to provide additional long-term perspective on the Company’s strategic and financial goals after its content distribution plans in the U.S., U.K., and India have been determined and its plans have further evolved. Management currently expects to reach agreement in the U.K. by year-end 2018, and in India during the first half of 2019. Although these agreements could be secured either before or after these dates, management believes that these ranges represent the most likely periods for such communication,” WWE said in a statement.

WWE has completed agreements with USA Network and Fox Sports, effective 1 October 2019, for the US distribution of its flagship programmes Raw and SmackDown.

According to WWE, these agreements increase the average annual value (AAV) of WWE’s U.S. distribution to 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBCU.

As part of these five-year agreements, Monday Night Raw will continue to air on USA Network; and Fox Sports will distribute SmackDown Live each Friday on Fox broadcast network. These agreements increase the average annual value (AAV) of WWE’s US distribution to 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBCU.

WWE management anticipates that revenue from “key content agreements” including the new U.S. deals, described as “Existing and New Agreements” revenue will grow to approximately $311 million in 2019 and $462 million in 2021.

The company is in the early stages of developing its operating and financial plans for 2019 and subsequent years. Given the substantial revenue growth provided by its new U.S. deals, WWE is currently targeting Adjusted OIBDA of at least $200 million for 2019, during which the new deals’ rates are effective for only three months.

WWE’s management said that it recognises the transformative nature of the US agreements and expects to provide additional long-term perspective on the company’s strategic and financial goals after its content distribution plans in the US, UK and India have been determined and its plans have further evolved. Management currently expects to reach agreement in the UK by year-end 2018.

“Monday Night Raw and USA Network have dominated Monday nights during a truly historic run. Our partnership with WWE is one of the strongest and most successful in the business, and together we’ll take Raw to even greater heights,” said NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment president, entertainment Networks Chris McCumber.

“We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with NBCUniversal and USA Network. ‘Monday Night Raw’ has been synonymous with USA Network and we are excited about what the future holds for WWE’s flagship programme” said WWE chairman, CEO Vince McMahon.

On the air for 25 years and more than 1,300 episodes, Monday Night Raw is the longest-running weekly episodic television show in US primetime history and consistently a rating juggernaut. Among the most-watched, regularly scheduled programmes on primetime cable, Raw delivers more viewers in the U.S. than all sports other than the NFL. Since its debut in 1993 on the USA, Raw has been watched nearly 6 billion times in the US alone.

Talking about the Fox deal Fox Sports president, COO, executive producer Eric Shanks said, “At Fox, we are thrilled to welcome WWE to the Fox Sports family and bring SmackDown Live to broadcast television. We are huge fans and know that together Fox Sports will be the leader in live events for the foreseeable future.”

“WWE and Fox are a perfect match. Moving SmackDown Live to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage Fox’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programming,” said McMahon.

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