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WWE Stock Drops After Paying U.S. OTT Subscribers Decline With This Year’s WrestleMania

Shares of WWE dropped as much as 7% Monday, after the wrestling entertainment company said WWE Network paid subscribers in the U.S. were lower after Sunday’s ‘WrestleMania 32″ than following last year’s flagship event.

This year, WWE tried to lure new customers to its over-the-top video service by offering a free one-month trial that included “WrestleMania,” held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home to the Dallas Cowboys.

But while WWE Network grew its total reach, to a record 1.82 million worldwide as of Monday, total paying subscribers in the U.S. actually declined 1% to 1.109 million compared with 1.123 million as of March 30, 2015, following last year’s “WrestleMania.”

According to WWE, if the acquisition and retention of subscribers “is consistent with recent activity,” the range of average paid subscribers for the second quarter 2016 would be 1.48 million to 1.55 million, representing an increase of approximately 22%-27% from the second quarter 2015.

“Results today further demonstrate the power of our brand, illustrate our potential to drive long-term growth and provide evidence that we are effectively executing our multiplatform content strategy,” George Barrios, WWE’s CFO and chief strategy officer, said in a statement.

However, investors pushed WWE stock down after the release of the numbers, indicating their skepticism that WWE Network will be able to covert a substantial number of those who signed up for the free promo into paying customers. Shares closed down 4.3% for the day, to $16.56 per share.

WWE said “WrestleMania 32” was its most-viewed event in history and had record attendance of 101,763. The event also was the highest-grossing live event in WWE history with $17.3 million, compared with $12.6 million last year.

As of Monday, WWE Network had 1.454 million total paid subscribers, up 11% year over year thanks to growth on the international front. Of the 1.39 million U.S. free and paying subs, about 281,000 were free users.

As of Dec. 31, 2015, WWE reported 1.22 million paid subscribers worldwide for the over-the-top network. That was up 72% from a year earlier but down sequentially from 1.31 million as of the end of the third quarter.

Also Monday, WWE touted that its social-media reach had increased with “WrestleMania 32.” It reported 65 million video views across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and YouTube, up 87% over last year. “WrestleMania” garnered a record 10.9 million engagements on social media, up 19% from the prior year, according to the company.

The company said it expects to exceed the high end of the range of its estimated first quarter 2016 adjusted operating income of approximately $19 million.

Consumers are able to sign up for WWE Network online at WWENetwork.com, and can watch the service on TV through devices including Sony PlayStation 3 and PS4, Microsoft Xbox One and Xbox 360, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku streaming devices as well as smart TVs including Sony, Samsung and Panasonic.

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