Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: WWE revamping its taping schedule
POST IT NOTES
**We have an interview posted with ESPN’s Arda Ocal remembering the late Howard Finkel. Arda and Howard worked together at WWE with Arda sharing stories of their friendship, their first meeting in 2012 in Toronto at a wrestling convention, the art of ring announcing and tops Finkel provided, his career highlight, and other interesting stories.
**Arda has also written a tribute to Finkel on ESPN.
**There has been high praise for the latest edition of the British Wrestling Experience as Benno & Jamesie welcomed Joe Lemon of the GRAPPL Spotlight Podcast to chat the WWE cuts and review the ROH Unified event from August 2006 in Liverpool. This show was headlined by Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness to unify the ROH championship with the Pure title.
**Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics was our guest on the Café Hangout discussing this week’s WWE cuts and breaking down some of the financial measures behind the decision. We always appreciate Brandon joining us especially for stories like this and going into the numbers to paint a broader picture of the story.
**Wai Ting and I are back tonight with Rewind-A-SmackDown discussing tonight’s show and will review the latest Dark Side of the Ring episode covering the death of Nancy Argentino from May 1983. This will be available to members of the POST Wrestling Café.
**Nate Milton will be joined by ‘Our Man’ Neal on The Rocky Maivia Picture Show on Saturday to review Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
**On Friday, Ryan Satin at Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that WWE is adjusting its taping schedule beginning next Saturday. They will go live with tonight’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown, Monday’s Raw, next Wednesday’s NXT, and the April 24th episode of SmackDown. Beginning April 24th, they will start to tape two episodes on most taping days with WWE confirming the changes to Satin.
The schedule would include two episodes of SmackDown taped on Saturday, April 25th to air on May 1st and 8th. On Monday, April 27th, they will tape that night’s Raw and the May 4th episode, and so on. The full taping schedule is on the Pro Wrestling Sheet site.
This would also suggest that WWE is not under pressure to provide live weekly episodes of Raw, NXT, or SmackDown. It is unknown why the decision was made to scrap their taping schedule last week in favor of live programming but today’s news would suggest it was WWE’s concern and not external from the networks.
**I wrote a big story for today’s update including research on potential savings by consolidating television tapings. Cost per taping would be lower in the empty arena format but today’s scheduling announcement will save WWE a lot of money. Below is the story I wrote before today’s report from Pro Wrestling Sheet to give a sense of costs involved from years past:
**One of the craziest weeks in WWE history saw layoffs and furloughs drastically affect its workforce. As of December 31st, WWE employed 960 people, not including their roughly 300 independently contracted talents from its various rosters in Florida and the U.K.
The company has received lots of criticism for its tact in dealing with the pandemic from both operational and corporate standpoints, continuing to run events while slashing jobs during a tumultuous time.
As a publicly-traded company, WWE has a duty to its shareholders to mitigate loss. Wall Street’s response to WWE’s recent maneuvers saw a small rise in the company’s stock price, listing its market cap at over $3 billion. This follows a year of blunders that have had lasting effects on the company’s value. The largest of these stems from a decision in January to part ways with company co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson with no succession plan. WWE stock tanked following the news, dropping from roughly $62 to $49 in a single day. Once the pandemic took hold in the U.S., WWE stock dropped even further, showing no upward mobility until the past few days where it currently trades in the $40 range.
All eyes and ears will be on the company’s next earnings call set for Thursday. The central question will be about the state of the company’s domestic television deals with Fox and NBC Universal. With core content rights fees being the lifeblood of the company, if the television deals are unaffected as the company pushes through with live programming, this week’s dramatic cutbacks will seem less justifiable. Requests for comment on the matter have been sent to each broadcaster by POST Wrestling but we have yet to hear a response.
However, television from the Performance Center and Full Sail University is being produced on a much smaller scale than normal. In theory, WWE is saving enormous production costs while still being paid the same fees from its broadcasters. If the company had been able to tape five weeks of television last weekend as originally intended, its savings would have been even greater.
In researching the company’s 2017 10-K report (the last time this item received its line), WWE listed its television production expenses at $129.5 million. With $15.9 million spent on non-live event programming (such as their various reality shows), the principal cost of live event production would be $113.6 million.
Presumably, we are looking at that figure being spent on Raw and SmackDown tapings in 2017. Additional events like pay-per-views, NXT and NXT UK tapings, and TakeOvers would likely fall under the ‘Network’ category of spending. Based on 104 television tapings, each would have cost approximately $1,090,000 that year. Even if you factored in the network content we just listed, it would bring the average to around $783,000 per production.
Again, this is theoretical, but let’s say WWE wanted to bulk shoot five weeks of tapings and expected to be paid the entire amount owed from NBC Universal and Fox. It would be reasonable to expect either broadcaster to argue that part of its rights fees designated for production. If the company is saving production costs by opting to not go live, are they entitled to the full amount? That comes down to the language in the contract and more importantly, its interpretation.
We should add that in the middle of 2017, that was when the company got away from using pyro, so production costs for the second half of that year would have been less than the first half. Unfortunately, the way the 10-K is reported now we cannot get a solid breakdown of television production costs in 2018 and 2019. You can argue that the $1.09 million figure is high, but they are now shooting 52 extra nights per year with NXT, which is on television now as is NXT UK. They also would be spending less per taping over the past month in the scaled-down empty arena format.
If we go with the figure of $1,090,000, then the savings from one less television taping would be greater than the monthly savings of all the talent and agent cuts/furloughs, according to Dave Meltzer’s estimate of $703,000. The savings number of $4 million per month comes with the addition of reduction in salaries for executives and board members, operating expenses being lowered, third party spending and consulting, and deferring spending towards their new headquarters for the next six months.
In this past year’s 10-K filing, the company listed among their current assets: cash and cash equivalents of $90,447,000 and short-term investments of $160,034,000, bringing the total value of current assets to $250.5 million. (At the end of 2017, cash and cash equivalents were $297.4 million and short-term investments of $267.1 million, so they have spent a ton over those two years but have also seen profits soar.)
It is the addition of their debt that brings WWE’s cash and debt capacity to the $500 million figure they outlined in their company released earlier this week.
In the last year, the company did take on a lot of debt, with the total as of December 31st, 2019 listed at $557.8 million, which is up from $213.9 a year prior and up dramatically from year-end 2015’s figure of $21.6 million.
The key reason for the larger debt is the addition of $343.4 million in finance lease obligations combined with its existing convertible senior notes.
Further, they also have a listing of their minimum payment obligations with total commitments of $56.5 million for the year, including $4.6 million for paying off long-term debt and $8.3 million for finance leases.
A key paragraph I came across as it relates to debt and potential risk factors affecting its ability to deliver on its 2020 outlook:
Our total consolidated debt, including the $215.0 million aggregate principal amount of 3.375% convertible senior notes due 2023 (the “Convertible Notes”), is significant. We also have availability under our $200.0 million revolving credit facility (the “Revolving Credit Facility”). Through certain of our subsidiaries, the Company also has in place a term loan secured by the Company’s jet and a real estate mortgage in the principal amount of $22.5 million secured by the related real estate (the “Asset-Backed Facilities”).
We believe we have sufficient liquidity for at least the next twelve months for our needs (including the payment of our dividend). However, our ability to make scheduled principal and interest payments on the Convertible Notes and under the Revolving Credit Facility, the Asset-Backed Facilities and any other indebtedness that may be outstanding at the time will depend on our future performance, which is subject to economic, financial, competitive and other factors beyond our control, including the items described elsewhere in these Risk Factors. Our business may not continue to generate cash flow from operations in the future sufficient to service our debt and provide for all our other uses of cash including capital and operating expenditures and paying our dividend. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow, we could be required to adopt one or more alternatives which, assuming they are, in fact, available, could be onerous, dilutive or otherwise affect our operations and/or the market price of our Common Stock. Such alternatives could include, for example, substantially reducing our cost structure, selling assets, reducing or eliminating our dividend, and/or obtaining additional debt or equity financing. We may not be able to engage in any of these activities on desirable terms or at all due to our then existing financial condition, market conditions, regulatory matters or contractual obligations (including, for example, any restrictions under our Revolving Credit Facility or other credit agreement or debt instruments that may exist at that time). Any failure to make a required payment under our indebtedness may constitute a default under that indebtedness and under other indebtedness due to cross-default provisions and could trigger acceleration clauses causing the obligations to become immediately due and payable. The occurrence of one or more of these risks could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
**While it was scheduled, the optics were not great as WWE announced their quarterly dividend on Thursday with $0.12 to be paid for each Class A and Class B shares of common stock. The dividend will be paid out on June 25th. Brandon Thurston notes that the last known number of shares owned by Vince McMahon is 28,697,568 and would result in a dividend payout of $3,443,708.16.
**Sports Business Journal has a big story on the final days of the XFL. The decision to shut down was limited to a small circle around Vince McMahon with those in the league expecting a 2021 season after suspending play on the current one due to the pandemic last month.
While never stated publicly by McMahon, the belief was he had dedicated $500 million to the league and would ensure a minimum of two seasons of play.
In the bankruptcy filings, it listed the XFL’s losses at $44 million as of February 29th with revenue of $14 million. It added that McMahon made two secured loans to the league – one for $5 million to cover shortfalls, and another on April 9th for $4 million, which was four days before the bankruptcy filing.
In SBJ’s breakdown, average attendance was relatively steady with 17,455 per game in Week 1, peaking with 20,486 in Week 3, and posting a 16,062 average in the final week.
Television viewership, which was the more important metric dropped each week. They came out of the gate with an average of 3,120,000 and dropped to 2,057,000 in Week 2. It’s worth noting that Week 1 featured games on ABC, Fox, and ESPN. In the second week, they had one game on FS 1 that dragged down the average a lot. On paper, there it’s a drop of 34% but if you factor out the FS1 game they dropped approximately 27%. In Week 3, they averaged 2.05 million and by Week 5 was down to 1.16 million and was not a positive pattern.
We will never know if the declines would continue or if they had hit their baseline. Television was key because this entire endeavor was built around the idea of landing a major television rights deal to offset the enormous losses it would take to start up the league and solider through. It’s a reasonable concern that rights deals could be affected by the impact the networks are undergoing and the XFL would be near the bottom of the list of leagues the network will pay.
On April 8th, the team presidents were alerted that season tickets holders would have their deposits refunded for the 2021 season, whether they asked for them or not. That was a bad sign.
The reporting added the following on the decision making behind the shutdown:
What exactly changed so dramatically between March 20 and April 10? Few people outside of McMahon and his closest inner circle understand exactly. The pandemic-related losses were steep and made the path to profitability more challenging, but Luck said two years earlier that all parties knew the XFL launch would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Others said it was simply the gradual realization of how long the pandemic shutdown would last and how long the effects would be.
**AJ Styles spoke on MIXER about this week’s WWE releases and was devastated by the job losses specifically his close friends Karl Anderson (Chad Allegra) and Luke Gallows (Drew Hankinson). He compared them to his younger brothers and felt he couldn’t do enough to protect them. He ran through the list of talent and others let go and shared his following thoughts on the decisions made by the company and reaction to the company continuing with shows:
I’m as shocked as you are at some of the guys that got released. I mean I have my own opinions on the way things could have been done differently. I’m not the CEO of a company, I’m not a billionaire, I’m not up there, I don’t make those kinds of decisions. I’m not qualified to say what’s right or wrong
So, I don’t know, who do you blame with all this? Every company is doing this and one thing you need to learn is that when big companies stop making money – as much as they should – it’s usually not the highest up person that owns the company that takes a pay cut, everyone else does. That’s usually just the way it works. I don’t know what’s going on, who’s making what. I just know I lost a lot of great friends and I’m torn up about it.
With all the talk about WWE being essential on television, I don’t know whether it is or it isn’t but I know that I’m glad I’m able to entertain, I’m glad I’m still able to do my job. I just don’t understand people who complain about it and then bury the company for releasing people. You can’t have both, we have to be able to work. If you don’t work, your business can’t make money. I want to be able to work and I know there are risks involved and I’ve got to do whatever I can to hopefully not contract that coronavirus.
— ChanMan 🕗 (@ChandranTheMan) April 17, 2020
**Here are the matches advertised for tonight’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown airing at 8 pm Eastern on Fox:
*The Miz vs. Big E. vs. Jey Usos for the SmackDown tag titles
*Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro in a Money in the Bank Qualifying match
*Naomi vs. Dana Brooke in a Money in the Bank Qualifying match
*Tamina vs. Sasha Banks – if Tamina wins, she receives a title shot against Bayley
*Sonya Deville attempts to ‘clear the ring’ with Mandy Rose
**Tonight’s episode of 205 Live will feature taped matches selected by Brian Kendrick.
**Dark Side of the Ring producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisener is doing a weekly podcast with Conrad Thompson covering the previous night’s episode of the series. This week’s show was enlightening because of the amount of research they had put into the Jimmy Snuka case and the time constraints of the television format. There are a lot of notes from the case study including sworn statements from the time involving those connected to it. Neither seemed satisfied with the handling of the Vice TV post-show that ran this past Tuesday, which they are not involved in. This week’s thirty-minute after-show featured Irv Muchnick, who did not have a sizable role in the documentary and would know the case as much as anyone has covered it since the early ‘90s. He has openly complained about Vice editing his comments down for the post-show that also featured Greg Valentine and Brian Knobs for unknown reasons. Neither Valentine or Knobs were there in 1983 and I don’t know what leads you to book those two for such serious subject matter. Given Muchnick had a reduced role in the documentary, he should have been the singular guest on the post-show because this is a nuanced case with many technical details that don’t always come through when you have time constraints and multiple interview subjects in a documentary and that seemed to be what Muchnick was the victim of and also having the investigative reporters from the Allentown Morning Call in the documentary. It was brought up numerous times on the podcast, that this week’s episode should have been a two-part series but Vice wanted ten stories and only gave the allowance for the Chris Benoit episode to have two episodes.
**Joe Cabray of OTT has informed everyone that they have lost their training school due to a dispute with their landlord to work through the ongoing crisis.
**Matt Cardona (formerly ‘Zack Ryder’) has posted booking and media information along with the following message after his release this past week:
Thanks for all the love and support the past 48 hours. After 14 years in one place, this new adventure is one I’m beyond excited for. I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about booking me. I cannot wait to wrestle again and meet more of my fans. However, with what’s going on in the world right now, I can’t accept any bookings. It wouldn’t be fair to the fans to take bookings, announce them, have people spend their money on tickets for an event…only for it to be cancelled or rescheduled. The focus right now should be on staying safe and staying home until this pandemic clears up. Once people are able to gather together again, let’s hit the ground running. I cannot wait to get out there and perform for my fans.
**AEW has announced Cody vs. Joe Alonzo and Anna Jay vs. Penelope Ford for next Tuesday’s edition of Dark.
**SoFi Stadium was set to open its doors this July with two Taylor Swift concerts but have rescheduled them for a future date in 2021. The new stadium is set to host WrestleMania next year.
**Ben Fowlkes at The Athletic has a Q&A with epidemiologist Dr. Zachary Binney on the safety protocol recommended if the UFC is to move forward with cards. This is important information especially when looking at WWE that is running three shows per week and talent and crew are not stationed in one isolated area. With talent traveling back home and, in some cases, flying in planes, it presents more risk. Below is an excerpt from the Q&A regarding travel:
So, the travel part adds danger in two ways. One is even if there are few cases in the area where you’re holding the fight, you could be bringing people in from areas with a higher number of cases and that adds danger. The other is the danger of somebody getting infected while they’re coming from wherever they are to Las Vegas or wherever. Flying on a commercial airplane right now certainly would add risk to that. You come in contact with a lot of people when you’re going to an airport and getting on a plane, even though it’s fewer people than normal right now because fewer people are flying. But the risk certainly isn’t zero. We’re advising people to not fly if they can avoid it. Driving is the safer option possibly, depending on how many times you’re stopping, what you do when you get gas, if you’re going out to get food, that sort of thing.
The only way to be close to 100 percent certain would be to do that pre-isolation process I’ve been talking about in Vegas, or in whatever city the event will be. And then as soon as their isolation period is over, you put them on a bus that’s been deep cleaned, with a driver who has been through that isolation process and is known to be virus-free or maybe who has a confirmed immunity to COVID-19, and then you move that fighter directly into a quarantine area that does not allow anybody who has not been isolated and tested for two weeks inside. Otherwise, anything you’re going to do adds risks.
**ESPN’s Marc Raimondi has a detailed timeline of the UFC’s attempts to stage UFC 249, which would have taken place Saturday in Lemoore, California.
**Despite Saturday’s UFC 249 fight card is off, Tony Ferguson still cut weight and posted a video of him making 155 pounds on Friday. I will not be attempting such a thing to pass time.
**ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reports that UFC president Dana White will hold two remote sessions with fighters on Friday. The calls are scheduled to discuss the UFC’s upcoming events and address concerns overtraining, health, safety, and other topics. It was stated the sessions are only open to fighters with managers and third-party members not invited.
POST INTERVIEW: Arda Ocal Remembers Howard Finkel
John Pollock chats with Arda Ocal of ESPN about the passing of former colleague Howard Finkel earlier this week at the age of 69.
BWE Retro Edition: ROH Unified (2006)
Benno & Jamesie welcome Joe Lemon from GRAPPL Spotlight to review Ring of Honor’s 2006 UK debut show, Unified. The three also chat about the huge news of WWE’s massive cuts this week, with a discussion of the likely impact on NXT UK.
Café Hangout: Mass layoffs at WWE, Brandon Thurston
John Pollock and Wai Ting welcome Wrestlenomics.com’s Brandon Thurston to discuss yesterday’s numerous WWE layoffs and related topics ahead of next week’s Q1 2020 financial report. We also discuss the passing of Howard Finkel and take your phone calls.
John Pollock and Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite and go through a terrible day for the wrestling industry with WWE announcing a massive number of releases.
upNXT: Tick Tock
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the April 15th edition of WWE NXT featuring Matt Riddle defending his Tag Team Championship with a “mystery” partner vs. Undisputed Era, a big angle involving Tommaso Ciampa and “Killer” Kross… and more!
REWIND-A-WAI #59: NWA Starrcade (1983)
John Pollock and Wai Ting review NWA Starrcade 1983 featuring Harley Race vs. Ric Flair in a steel cage match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
REWIND-A-RAW 4/13/20: An Essential Episode of WWE Raw
John Pollock and Wai Ting review a live edition of Raw that was produced by the essential WWE. We discuss the latest involving WWE confirming their first employee case of COVID-19, XFL filing for bankruptcy and more.
TOTAL RECALL: Total Bellas Season 5, Ep. 1 & 2
Wai Ting welcomes his fiancée Pauline for a very special bonus review of Total Bellas Season 5, Episodes 1 & 2 as they catch up with Nikki, Brie, and Bryan.
Browse the POST Wrestling Store
Subscribe to POST Wrestling
POST Wrestling Forum
Support our Patreon – The POST Wrestling Café