Source: Motley Fool
World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE) reported fiscal first-quarter results yesterday. Investors liked what they heard and sent the stock up like an opponent being readied for a chokeslam at the hands of the Undertaker.
Net revenue jumped 13% to $107.4 million. Net income on a diluted basis rocketed 62% higher to $0.21 per share. That’s right, WWE delivered the People’s Elbow to analysts who only saw fit to credit the company with $0.17 in earnings potential this quarter. Take that!
The lower tax rate may have helped out, but I think shareholders can look upon this quarter positively. Just about all the major operating segments — live and televised entertainment, consumer products, and digital media — saw revenue increases. In terms of profit contribution, consumer products and digital media rose nicely, while live/televised was flat. Digital media, which holds great growth prospects, showed its strength by contributing 43% more income during this time frame.
Oh boy, WWE Films still hasn’t contributed anything. And with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s latest project, The Condemned, not exactly stunning them at theaters, I know a lot of analysts and investors are going to be questioning this segment. It’s certainly a fair point; after all, the company will need to produce bigger box-office draws so it presumably won’t have to wait so long to book revenues. Right now, WWE must allow print and advertising costs to be recouped by distributors Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF) and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS). Lions Gate released See No Evil and The Condemned, while News Corp. handled The Marine. According to the conference call, WWE expects to recognize film revenues later in the fiscal year.
Another negative issue is the drop in pay-per-view buys. There is, of course, the effect of a price hike to consider, but WWE seems to believe that a change in strategy is necessary for its premium broadcast events, as evidenced by a new blueprint. The company plans on using all three brand rosters — RAW, SmackDown!, and ECW — to increase the value proposition for the consumer. I see this as a wise move.
Free cash flow was a bright spot. Not only did it increase 54% to $23.1 million, but the amount easily took care of the dividend obligation. Last time around, during the eight-month transition report, I mentioned that cash flow was down; indeed, free cash did not cover the dividend payments, so it’s good to see a return to such fiscal balance. Granted, this is only the first quarter, but it is nevertheless welcome.
Even after yesterday’s 8% run-up, WWE’s stock retains a decent yield. The company will need to work on pay-per-view buy rates and its film business, but I think current stockholders can be patient due to the dividend level. I remain positive on WWE’s investment storyline, and I expect future growth based on its popular content. Forget Triple H — WWE, my friend, is The Game.