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RAW Thoughts, WWE Financials, Etc...
August 21, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


News-wise, we're definitely in a bit of a lull.  When I have to pretend like your average fan at home should give a rat's ass about fiscal quarters and Earnings Before Interest and Taxes, you know I'm stretching!  But let's give 'er a go, anyways:
  • Monday's RAW?  I just don't know...  
    It seems the general reaction (at least that I've been seeing) is that people were not impressed.  That's fair enough.  Myself, I certainly wasn't rushing off my couch on Monday night to get on the internet and deliver a virtual blowjob to the RAW creative team or anything...  but with an extra day of perspective, I'm also not so sure that there was a whole lot to bitch about.
    They got a few important storyline elements worked in, and some good soundbytes and visuals they can use to make a final push towards SummerSlam.  What wound up being RAW's achilles heel was that it was poorly laid out, I thought...  pacing was off, and there were vast stretches where you were itching for SOMEthing to happen, and either it didn't, or it was so obviously telegraphed that it didn't register.
    Now, in the case of the late show lull, where we got three consecutive non-wrestling segments (Fozzy, and the two segments bookending the live performance), I'm sure that was a logistical inevitability:  getting all that gear in and then out meant doing a bunch of backstage stuff on either side.  Really annoying, since the bookends (especially the overly dramatic and pointless thing between HHH and Bischoff) were almost completely devoid of anything of note.
    But the show's opening half-hour was just as brutal.  Starting with a "so what?" promo by the Undertaker, it moved into setting up a six-man tag match (Taker/Booker/Goldust vs. the UnAmericans) that frankly didn't NEED a 10 minute segment to set it up.  You could have handled that a lot more efficiently (just a little something backstage to remind us of last week and to make the six-man for this week official), I think, and then could have given that opening promo spot to HHH and Jericho (who were a hell of a lot more entertaining when they got 10 minutes to kill later in the show).
    If the show had started hotter, then sneaking in the Hardcore Battle Royal thing would've come off a lot better, I think.  It was a good idea to kill off 24/7, and an even better one to keep the title on Dreamer, but because of what the Fed put on either side of it, the Hardcore segment on Monday night seemed more like just another part of a very fast-forward-able opening 30 minutes.  
    Of course, I'm lumping the mud wrestling match in there too... not because I'm opposed to T&A (which I'm not), but because in this context the titillation (outfits that are conservative by "Sex on the Beach" standards) was not titillating, and the comedy (HA! referees and ring announcers in the mud) was not funny.  [A Big OO Salute, however, to Trish Stratus, who has apparently been letting the other divas use her as a target for Knife Edge Chop drills.  Welts like that across the puppies won't sell many calendars, but they will underscore just how serious she is about taking care of business inside the ring.]
    You could easily have restructured the opening hour of RAW to better effect, that's all I'm saying.  I have no problem with having a show like this every now and again where there's a lot of talking and storytelling and less wrestling...  but I have a problem when it becomes obvious and distracting that that's what's happening.
    Highlights on the night were Rock/HHH and the six-man tag match.  From a non-wrestling standpoint, I really loved HHH and Jericho's verbal sparring, too... oh, and a note about Fozzy:  I will leave all my genre-based biases aside, and say that they played with intensity, were tight, and dagnabbit, left me with the chorus of the song stuck in my head.  Folks who have been verbally raping Chris Jericho for being off with the vocals, note two things (1) yes, I'm sure Jericho got the benefit of some studio magic on the Fozzy CDs (where he really does sound quite good), but (2) he didn't sound so much like he was missing cuz he sucked as he sounded like he was was missing because he was lost and couldn't hear himself in the mix (bad monitors).  I've been there, I know that sound (but only after the fact, of course).  Anyway, they made some sort of adjustment, and things sounded better towards the end, no?
    Oh, and that leads me to one thing that REALLY annoyed me on RAW:  Jerry Lawler comparing Fozzy to the Stones and the Beatles...  I mean, as if we needed Lawler to date himself any more vividly!  If Lawler wanted to make comparisons to old bands that the majority of kids in the Fed's primary demo have only a vague recognition of, I'm sure Jericho and the band would have much preferred to be compared to Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, or RATT.
    RAW on Monday did enough to keep us moving smoothly towards SummerSlam, but not much else above and beyond the call...  and CRZ's got your full details right here.
  • The rating for Monday's show is in, and once again, RAW made a minor improvement.  The Fed scored a 4.0, up just a tick over last week.  They've gotta make hay while the sun shines...  MNF starts up in two weeks.
  • Alright, as I alluded to above, it's time for our quarterly foray into pretending like we have any reason to care about how WWE, Inc., performs financially.  Seriously, not counting those of you reading from Titan Towers, what percentage of this audience is holding stock right now?
    That's what I thought...  but still, it IS kind of interesting to see what's making money, what isn't, and to wonder about what the end effect on the product (which we DO care about) will be.
    In this case:  WWE's total revenues for the first fiscal quarter of 2003 (ended July 26, 2002) were $88.1 million, down just 3% ($2.6 million) from the first quarter last year.  However, the company took a huge hit in terms of net income, losing 75% from the previous year, down to $2.5 million.
    In fairness, it seems the loss of over $9 million in net income is largely due to an anomalous gain the previous year unrelated to operating income (referred to as "revaluation and sale of equity investments").  Operating income (which is just revenues, minus cost of doing business, SGA expenses, and depreciation) was actually down only $2 million (which is completely in line with the Fed's loss of revenue).  [Of course, while maintaining an operating income of $2.9 million, the Fed pretty much has to thank the timing of settlement of their suit(s) against the PTC, et al for that positive showing...  those judgments contributed $2.2 million to the $2.9 million in operating income.]
    Breaking down where the money came from...
    Live event revenue increased this quarter from the same time last year, up 28% to $19 million.  Total attendance increased to 500,400 (up 20%), which was coupled with a 7% increase in average ticket price (to $37.92).  What the Fed doesn't go out of their way to harp on is the fact that the number of shows drastically increased this quarter from the previous year (87 shows, as opposed to 47); attendance PER SHOW, dropped from 8900 per show last year to just 5800 per show this year... you gotta wonder if maybe splitting the rosters and running more shows wasn't timed perfectly, since the increased number of shows more than offset the loss of per-show revenue.
    Also on the rise are the sales of WWE-branded merchandise and licensed products.  Though action figure sales were way down, that was more than offset by steady or big growth performances in publishing, video games, home video (including massive growth in DVDs), and sales of t-shirts/etc. at live events (total live event sales were up 27% due to both the increase in total number of attendees at shows AND to a 19% per capita spending increase among those fans).
    And now, the bad news:
    PPV revenues were down over $6 million (to $19.2 million) in this quarter as opposed to last year.  That 24% drop off in revenue is not as alarming as the 31% drop-off in number of PPV purchases (from 1.6 million to 1.1 million); the less-dramatic drop in revenue is because PPVs are more expensive this year than they were last year.
    Also: TV advertising revenues were down 14% (to $16.7 million), a loss tied directly to reduced ratings and viewership.  And operation of "The World" (formerly WWF New York) was not as efficient this year as last:  revenues dropped by a third, to just $2.3 million.
    As was the case three months ago, the Fed notes that the logistical difficulties associated with splitting into two brands (remember, they were running split crew house shows even before the official brand split) have contributed to some of the ratings/PPV/attendance problems, and promise that the creative team will soon find the right formula to bring back the same number of fervent fans as the company had in years past.  As an investor, I'd probably say, "Don't tell me about it, just SHOW ME."
    But I'm not an investor, I'm a fan, so I think I'll just go back to talking about the part of the business that I see on my TV.  Well, mostly about that, anyway...
    If you haven't had enough of the finances, here's the link to see the whole press release for yourself.
  • Val Venis, who like Maven was unexpected scratched from in-ring duty on the Australia tour, got significantly better news than his rookie peer:  his recent training accident did not cause any serious neck/spinal damange, and Valbowski should be able to get back into the ring inside of a few weeks.
    Maven, on the other hand, has torn ligaments in his ankle that'll keep him sidelined till at least late October.
  • WWE, which had been offering webcasts of pay-per-view events since (I think) last Survivor Series, has decided to put that particular operation on hold.
    The webcasts routinely experienced technical troubles, and I think at least 2 of the 10 webcasts ended with vast majorities of customers getting their money refunded.  The announcement called the last 10 months a "learning experience" and promised that based on that experience, they would be ready to launch a new, more reliable webcast system in time for this year's Survivor Series.
    From a business perspective, I think step one is re-assessing the niche market for PPV webcasts.  In short, the deliverable product in webcast format falls far short of the TV format (or even the going to a bar and watching for free format) in almost every way.  The price should reflect that, and that way you'll attract people who would otherwise not watch ANY format of the show. [I think a pro-rated pricing scheme also makes sense...  maybe $8.95 for low-bandwidth 56K viewers, and $11.95 for cable/DSL viewers, that way those who are using the resources pay for them.]
    From a technical perspective, I'd just shut my mouth and suggest hiring whoever is responsible for making it possible for me to have a live naked girl on my PC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Seriously, if porno guys can figure out how to have massive numbers of people receiving a live video feed, why can't WWE?  Don't have the expertise?  Then hire it.
  • Bill Goldberg's official website has recently posted a new interview with Goldberg, in which he discusses his upcoming trip to Japan and his openness to working in the US in the future.
    To view the interview, click here.
  • Some more chances for those of you who like the Fantasy Sports...
    First is another fantasy football league.  This one is located over at sandbox.net.  Head over there, get registered, and then find Trevor Botting's Full Contact league -- "The Dangerous Alliance" -- and get signed up.  No password is necessary, he says.
    And an OO first:  if you like hockey, Fantasy Hockey is starting up.  Head over to Yahoo's Hockey page, chose to join a private league, and use ID#1190 (password: "trish"), and you'll be all set.
  • Quickly, a quick plug for tonight's NWA-TNA PPV event, which looks to be leaning heavily on the X Division (which hopefully will mean less VRap).
    The keystone of tonight's show will be a three-fall match between Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles.  First will be a NO DQ match.  Then, a Falls Count Anywhere match.  And finally, if they split the first two falls (and you know they will), they'll head into an Iron Man Rules 10 minute sudden death match.  An X-Title shot goes to the winner.  Should be outstanding.
    Also in the X Division:  Lo Ki defends the X Title against Amazing Red and the Spanish Announce Team in a four-way match, while Sonny Siaki takes on Jimmy Yang in a battle between Flying Elvisses.
    Other attractions:  TNA promises to unravel more of the mystery behind Brian Lawler's accusations towards Jeff Jarrett, while Ron "the Truth" Killings is set to defend the NWA Title against former NFL player "Alpha Male" Monty Brown.
    If you were waiting for a good week to check out TNA, this might be it.  If you hold out, though, don't sweat it...  CRZ will be here tomorrow with a recap for you.
  • And me, I'm here next on Friday, when I'll do the usual Big Ass OO PPV Preview, in which we run down the card, and try to present just about every crack-pot theory possible for every match.  Wanna hear the one about Brock Lesnar turning on Paul Heyman to become a babyface by the end of the show?  Well, sorry, you'll just have to wait till Friday!
    See you then.... 


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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