World Wrestling Entertainment, which has hit some bumps in the road recently, the latest being COVID-19, beat Wall Street estimates for first-quarter revenue and earnings. Its shares climbed more than 10% on the news.
Net income for the period came in at $26.2 million, or 31 cents a share, while revenue of $291 million shot up 60% $182.4 million a year ago. Analysts had expected 25 cents and $266.5 million, respectively.
The company, which laid out several cost-cutting measures in light of the coronavirus last week, said those moves saved $4 million in costs. The company is also suspending its $500 million share buyback program.
WWE bouts have provided TV networks with 52-week-a-year programming that delivers stable ratings in a time when viewership of overall entertainment is eroding. That reliable flow of programming made it a desirable target for Fox Corp., which paid a reported $1 billion for five years of Friday Night SmackDown. ESPN also got into the ring with the WWE.
Despite extensive shutdowns of its operations, the Stamford, CT-based company has managed to thread the needle in Florida, where state officials this month declared its matches held in Orlando to be “essential” business that could continue. The company’s flagship event, WrestleMania, was broadcast via pay-per-view this month without fans in attendance, providing an odd viewing spectacle. A later re-airing on ESPN drew an average of 720,000 viewers.
In its earnings release, the company asserted that its “growth prospects remain strong” despite the impact of COVID-19. “WWE is well positioned to take full advantage of the changing media landscape and increasing value of live sports rights over the longer term,” it said.
One particular area of strength was digital, with video views up 25% to 9.6 billion. The number of hours of WWE programming consumed on digital and social media rose 15% to 344 million. The company has made its streaming service, the WWE Network, free to view during the pandemic. It had nearly 1.5 million subscribers in the quarter, the company reported.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.