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World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is readying to tag in loyal fans back into the viewing experience when it returns to live touring in mid-July. And it looks like they are more than willing to accept that tag.
"Ticket sales are looking great," WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Yahoo Finance Live.
WWE said it will begin a 25-city tour in Texas on July 16. It will mark WWE's return to live touring — which includes fans in the stadiums — since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
WWE never went off the air during the pandemic, developing something called the Thunderdome to continue its programming across its brands Smackdown, Raw and NXT. The setup's main feature was fans being shown on screens spread throughout the Thunderdome venue.
"We have seen excellent results so far. We are definitely tracking way ahead of where we were the last time we were in market for these events," said McMahon.
The tour will be the lead up to WWE's big annual summer event known as SummerSlam, which will be held on August 21 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium. Ticket sales for SummerSlam begins this week, McMahon said.
'Fundamentals are strong'
Despite the impact of the pandemic on WWE's important live events business (it hauled in $144.2 million in sales alone in 2018, according to regulatory filings), the stock has continued to have a bullish bias. Shares of WWE have gained about 33% over the past year, as analysts have praised the company for securing lucrative, long-term media rights deals with Fox and Comcast.
Moreover, the company has recently undertaken a restructuring of key departments and the talent roster which is likely to bolster profits. McMahon said the restructuring reflects WWE's desire to run a more efficient, better business coming out of the pandemic.
"We continue to believe that the company's fundamentals are strong with several key potential catalysts ahead. WWE successfully navigated the pandemic demonstrating the flexibility and resilience of its business model: 1) content was delivered to partners continuously, 2) cost mitigation measures more than offset parts of the business that saw revenue pressure, and 3) FCF generation was strong ($292mm for 2020)," said Guggenheim analyst Curry Baker.
Baker has a Buy rating and $75 price target on WWE.
"WWE is poised to return to live in July (we expect full capacity sell-outs for the first three shows in Texas) thus normalizing the core product (fans are a key part of the spectacle) and providing an incremental boost to ratings (we saw this last year when WWE pivoted to the ThunderDome format)," the analyst added.
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