Event ticket sales, pay-per-view revs down

It hasn’t been hit by a body slam just yet, but World Wrestling Entertainment is beginning to feel the sting of the weakened economy with fewer fans starting to buy tickets to its events or watch them on pay-per-view.

Although overall revenue collected from its live events in the United States grew 15% to $15.5 million during the third quarter, average attendance fell 4% to 5,300 per event. Ticket prices also took a slight $0.71 dip to average out at $38.21.

Company’s event biz was hardest hit overseas, where its 12 events earned $4.8 million vs. $6.6 million from 15 shows in 2007.

Uptick in revenue was largely due to the WWE producing more events during the quarter in the U.S., where there were 77 vs. last year’s 63.

Altogether, the company’s live events generated $20.3 million in the third quarter compared with $20.1 million last year, offset largely due to the increase in events in the U.S.

Those include three high-profile PPV broadcasts per quarter. Revenue from those during the recent quarter — “The Great American Bash,” “SummerSlam” and “Unforgiven” — fell 13% to $16.4 million.

The events biz has long been expected to take a hit from the down economy, with fewer consumers expected to open their wallets to attend shows, opting for less expensive fare like movies and TV shows, instead.

Total revenue collected during the quarter was $108.8 million, a slight increase over the $108.1 million earned a year ago. However, net income fell 38% to $5.3 million.

There was a bright side for WWE, however.

Company’s consumer products division saw sales increase 40% for the quarter to $26.6 million, with homevid sales up 93% to $11 million due to new releases, and strong interest in its vidgames, music and magazines driving its licensing and publishing businesses.

Revenue from digital media rose 3% to $7.9 million, despite a 13% drop in ad sales for its WWE.com site. Sales of merchandise from the site offset drop.

TV rights fees also rose to $24.4 million, compared with $22.8 million. Company recently moved its weekly “Friday Night SmackDown” series from the CW to MyNetworkTV.

And on the film front, WWE Studios earned $5.6 million from its first three film efforts, “See No Evil,” “The Marine” and “The Condemned.” It had to take a $1.9 million writedown because of lower than expected earnings from “Evil.” It’s readying to release its first self-financed and -produced pic “12 Rounds” in March.

News comes as WWE has named Donna Goldsmith, exec VP of consumer products, as its new chief operating officer after Mike Sileck stepped down from the post.

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