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World Wrestling (WWE) Q2 Earnings Beat, FY22 View Raised

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World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE - Free Report) posted second-quarter 2022 results, wherein the top line met the Zacks Consensus Estimate, while the bottom line beat the same. Impressively, both revenues and earnings grew sharply from the year-ago period. The quarterly performance gained from the return to a full live event schedule, the stellar consumer products business and the monetization of content. The company raised its full-year adjusted OIBDA view.

Premium live events, such as WrestleMania Backlash, Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank and SummerSlam, witnessed remarkable viewership. These events coupled with solid ratings for flagship programs, Raw and SmackDown continued to expand brand reach and enhance content value. The company also launched a new, enhanced digital platform for e-commerce and licensed merchandise in connection with its long-term partnership with Fanatics.

Q2 Performance Insight

This Stamford, CT-based company reported second-quarter 2022 adjusted earnings of 59 cents a share, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 56 cents. The quarterly earnings increased significantly from the 42 cents a share reported in the prior-year quarter.

WWE’s revenues of $328.2 million came in line with the consensus estimate and surged 24% year over year, driven primarily by higher ticket sales at live events. A rise in the sales of licensed products, including video games and trading cards, also supported revenue growth. A jump in media rights fees related to flagship programs and premium live events also contributed to the top line.

A Look at Margins

WWE’s operating income of $69.3 million jumped 50% year over year, buoyed by higher revenues but partly offset by increased operating expenses due to the return to live event touring and increased production costs related to premium live events. We note that the operating income margin increased to 21% from 17% in the year-ago quarter.

Adjusted OIBDA came in at $91.5 million, up 34% year over year. Again, the adjusted OIBDA margin expanded to 28% from the 26% reported in the prior-year quarter.

Segment Details

Media Division: Revenues in the Media division went up 4% to $243.1 million. The year-over-year increase can be attributed to a jump in domestic and international media rights fees associated with flagship programs and premium live events. These were partly offset by the timing of the delivery of third-party original programming.

Core content rights fees increased to $151.8 million from $141.8 million in the prior-year period. Network revenues came in at $63.7 million, up from the $61.5 million reported in the year-ago quarter. Advertising and sponsorship revenues declined to $17.9 million from $18.7 million in the year-ago period. Other media revenues decreased to $9.7 million from $11.9 million in the prior-year period.

Live Events: Revenues from Live Events came in at $41 million, up meaningfully from $9.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The upside can be attributed to higher ticket sales as the company returned to staging ticketed live events. Higher ticket sales from WWE’s marquee annual event, WrestleMania, also contributed to the segment’s revenues. The company held 59 ticketed live events in the reported quarter consisting of 55 events in North America and four events in international markets. The average attendance at the North America events was roughly 6,800.

Consumer Products Division: The segment’s revenues of $44.1 million zoomed 96% year over year. We note that consumer product licensing revenues came in at $22.6 million, up from $11.3 million in the year-ago period. This was driven by a rise in the sales of licensed products, including video games driven by the franchise game WWE 2K22 as well as trading cards, and other collectibles. E-commerce merchandise sales advanced to $12.9 million from $9.9 million in the prior-year period due to the sale of the existing merchandise inventory to the new operator of WWE’s official e-commerce platform. Venue merchandise sales jumped to $8.6 million from $1.3 million in the year-ago quarter due to the return to ticketed live events.

Other Financial Details

WWE ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $110.1 million, net short-term investments of $333.4 million, long-term debt of $21.1 million and stockholders’ equity of $440.9 million.

Cash flow generated from operating activities during the quarter amounted to $56.9 million, while free cash flow was $9.5 million.

The company paid out $19.1 million to shareholders in the second quarter. This includes $10 million in share repurchases and $9.1 million in dividends paid. As of Jun 30, 2022, the company had approximately $210.9 million remaining under its share repurchase authorization of $500 million.

Outlook

Considering the stellar first-half performance and based on expectations for the second half, management now expects 2022 adjusted OIBDA in the range of $370-$385 million, up from the prior range of $360-$375 million. The upbeat guidance suggests the continued ramp-up of live events, including large-scale international events, and the increased monetization of content. It anticipates higher production, content-related and other expenses. WWE had reported adjusted OIBDA of $324.1 million in 2021.

Management projects third-quarter adjusted OIBDA between $70 million and $80 million compared with the $77.9 million reported in the year-ago period. The guidance indicates a stellar revenue performance due to the contractual escalation of domestic media rights fees for flagship programs and premium events, the increased monetization of content and higher international ticket sales related to the staging of a large-scale event. Management expects higher operating expenses in the third quarter.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has risen 22.6% in the past three months compared with the industry’s rise of 4.3%.

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