Profits, revs sink amid character flaws

This article was corrected on July, 1, 2002.

World Wrestling Entertainment, saw its profits plunge 16% and revenues drop 7.9% in fiscal 2002.

WWE’s annual financial report put a rubber stamp to the already obvious perception that ratings of the company’s signature TV shows “Raw” on TNN and “Smackdown” on UPN are down, particularly among 12- to 17-year-old males (Daily Variety, June 24).

Stories not working

“I haven’t seen the WWE come up with anything recently that has struck the fancy of the viewing audience,” said Dennis McAlpine, the veteran media analyst who’s head of his own firm. “New characters haven’t done it for audiences, and new storylines haven’t done it.”

McAlpine pointed to the difficulty WWE has had in coming up with marquee replacements for its biggest star the Rock (“The Scorpion King”), whose movie career has pulled him away from regular appearances on “Smackdown,” as well as for Stone Cold Steve Austin, who’s under a long-term suspension for insubordination, and Mick Foley, who retired.

Longer story arcs

In a telephone conference call with analysts and reporters, Linda McMahon, CEO of the WWE, acknowledged that the company’s staff writers “are going to have to come with longer story arcs” in order to “drive the casual fan back into the fold.”

“We have to adjust, retool and reinvent ourselves,” McMahon said, although she added that the WWE still has a roster of well-known wrestlers such as the Undertaker, Triple H, Rob Van Dam, Booker T. and Brock Lesner.

And even though the Rock is not doing as much wrestling these days, McMahon said she and her husband, WWE chairman Vince McMahon, will be executive producers of “Heldorado,” the Rock’s latest movie for Universal, in pre-production for an August-September shoot. The McMahons will also get profit participation in “Heldorado.”

World Wrestling Entertainment received the $2 million executive producer’s fee for the film.

In specific percentages, total revenues for WWE’s live and televised businesses were down 7% in fiscal 2002 (ended April 30), pay-per-view revenues were off by 12%, and TV ad revenues slipped by 7%.

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