WWE revenue up 3% in Q1

Company's biggest moneymaker, live events and TV, up 8% to $76 million

WWE pinned down a stronger-than-expected first quarter that wrapped up a day before “WrestleMania 28” broke records for the company in Miami.

Profits rose 78% to $15 million on revenue of $123 million, up 3% during the three-month period, that ended March 31.

The performance ends a two-quarter revenue losing streak for the company.

Earnings from live events and other related businesses were up in all markets, except Latin America, its smallest territory. Sales in North America rose 4%.

Company continues to invest in the creation of its television network, which it hopes to launch later this year, spending $2.1 million in related operating expenses last quarter.

It’s also been expanding into new markets overseas, producing its first show in the Middle East last quarter, in Abu Dhabi, that attracted more than 15,000 fans at three events with an average price of $147 per ticket.

WWE Studios also is in the midst of a turnaround as the film division focuses more on picking up finished projects or pairing up as a co-producer on titles.

Its latest title, “Bending the Rules,” didn’t perform as well as it hoped, forcing WWE Studios to take an $800,000 writedown. Project is one of the remaining films as part of its slate of self-financed pics, produced through its previous strategy. Division earned $4.8 million, compared to $8.6 million in the same quarter a year ago.

Separately, WWE earned $9.2 million from homevid, up 14%, although the average price of its discs is declining 27%.

Its biggest moneymaker, live events and TV, was up 8% to $76 million. The events side’s 13% boost in revenue of $22 million benefitted from the timing of Fan Axxess events (which sold $1.4 million in tix) which took place days before “WrestleMania.” WWE produced 75 events compared to 77 during the period a year ago.

TV rights fees generated $32.5 million, while PPV buys were up 3% to $13.5 million, due to higher prices to view the events as actual buys declined, especially overseas.

Company also generated $24 million from licensing, with sales of videogames down 11% — shipments of “WWE ’12” were off 25% to 2 million units — while action figures and toys fell 6%. Lower newsstands brought down magazine revenues to $1.4 million, from $2.2 million.

But digital-related businesses gained $1 million in revenue over last year to earn $7.1 million, with higher online ad sales helping WWE.com.

WWE’s second quarter will benefit from “WrestleMania,” which sold more than 1.3 million PPV buys worldwide, and featured a bout between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena. Event took place April 1.

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