World Wrestling Entertainment saw the paid subscriber ranks for its over-the-top service WWE Network rise 39% in the first quarter, a big driver of overall results where revenue increased 13% and operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) rose 31%.
WWE Network launched in February 2014 and has had some ups and downs as the scripted sports programmer has struggled to attract subscribers. But the service averaged 1.29 million paid customers in the quarter, ending the period with 1.47 million subscribers. At the beginning of the second quarter, subscribers spiked even higher after pay-per-view event WrestleMania , to a record 1.8 million. Whether those customers will remain or will churn after the event remains to be seen.
“Our strong performance in the first quarter reflected the successful execution of our content strategy,” said WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon in a statement. “The sustained year-over-year growth of WWE Network, the global consumption of our video content across all platforms, and the recent record breaking attraction of WrestleMania demonstrate the increasing strength of our brands. We believe we can continue to leverage these strengths to drive long-term growth.”
Overall revenue increased 13% to $171.1 from $151.3 million in the prior year, excluding the timing impact of WrestleMania, and OIBDA increased 31% to $27.6 million from the previous year. Net income increased to $13.9 million (18 cents per share) from $9.8 million (13 cents per share) in the prior year.
“Our earnings growth was driven primarily by the increased monetization of our network and television content as well as higher licensing revenue from our franchise video game," WWE chief strategy & financial officer George Barrios said in a statement. "Over the next year, we will continue to focus on producing engaging content across all platforms, investing in emerging markets, and deploying technology across the enterprise to drive our long-term growth.”