International Sports

WWE shares fall after wrestling body posts first-quarter loss

Key Points
  • 2019 revenues were $182.4 million, as compared to $187.7 million in the same quarter last year.
  • Q1 operating income reflected a loss of $6.8 million, as compared to $21.8 million a year earlier.
  • Flagship "Smackdown" brand moving from U.S. network USA to FOX in October 2019.
John Cena (R) competes with Triple H during the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Greatest Royal Rumble event in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on April 27, 2018.
AFP | Getty Images

Shares of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) tumbled almost 10% Thursday, following its first-quarter earnings report.

The wrestling brand announced a $5.3 million dip in revenue for the first part of 2019 when compared to the beginning of 2018.

Despite the high profile pay-per-view of the Royal Rumble occurring during the first quarter of this year, WWE announced on Thursday that its revenue was $182.4 million, as compared to $187.7 million in the same quarter last year.

WWE posted an operating loss of $6.8 million for the first three months of 2019, a disappointing reversal from the operating income of $21.8 million in 2018's first quarter.

"During the quarter, we continued to execute our strategy and achieved targeted financial results," stated Vince McMahon, chairman and chief executive officer in a statement.

"While engagement metrics over the past two quarters were impacted by Superstar absences, we believe they will improve as our talent return and we launch our new season following a successful WrestleMania. We remain excited about the future, particularly with our debut on Fox in October."

From October 2019, WWE's "Smackdown" show will be switching TV networks in the U.S. from its current home of USA to FOX, as part of a new five-year-deal. It will also be moving broadcast days, from Tuesday's to Friday's, and will be shown every week of the year.

The company remains positive for its 2019 outlook and is targeting another year of record revenue of approximately $1 billion. 

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Last month, WWE held the thirty-fifth edition of its biggest pay-per-view event Wrestlemania where for the first time in its history the main event featured an all-female match, eventually won by Becky Lynch.

Despite the recent drive to promote women's wrestling, it was also revealed last month that there is still a significant gender pay gap in terms of what the female athletes earn from WWE compared to their male counterparts.

As of mid-2018, Rhonda Rousey and Charlotte Flair, who were also involved in that Wrestlemania main event are the top earners with $1.5 million and $550,000 respectively, while Women's Champion Lynch only makes $250,000 a year, plus bonuses for main event shows.

Compare that to the men and there is a huge gulf between those figures and top earner Brock Lesner, who takes home $12 million a year. The former UFC fighter also makes another half a million dollars for each main event show, as does John Cena. He receives $8.5 million, as well at a 5% cut of all merchandise sales.

Triple H, real name Paul Levesque, has been a wrestler with WWE since 1995 and now mixes his in-ring persona with his role at board level as vice president of Live Events. He effectively collects a salary for each of these positions, with $1.65 million for performing and a further $1.1 million for his corporate role.

McMahon meanwhile is paid $2.4 million a year and is reportedly worth more than $3.3 billion.

Correction: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the high profile pay-per-view events that occurred during the first quarter.