Without fans in the stadiums to watch athletes compete, sports leagues across the world have had to find other ways to make money. For the WWE, one of the ways it’s succeeded is in its consumer products department. With venue merchandise plummeting due to COVID-19, the WWE has nearly made up all of the revenue lost from venue merchandise in e-commerce.
Since its decision in April to become the first sport and entertainment product to resume production after the pandemic, WWE has used the adversity to seek opportunity. “Our shop and our ecommerce team have long been planning to really lean into new products and better experiences across the ecommerce space,” WWE chief marketing and communications officer Brian Flinn said in a SporticoLive webinar last week.
In September 2019, the WWE reported $15.4 million in venue merchandise sales; this year the number shrunk to $3.2 million. However, e-commerce grew from $18.9 million to $27.7 million, while revenue increased from $26.6 million to $28.2 million. The gains in e-commerce have allowed the WWE to face a minimal loss without fans, as the total consumer products revenue this year was $59.1 million, just barely below 2019’s $60.9 million.
“We wanted to decrease our speed to market and focus on providing our fans with unique and innovative merchandise to match what we were doing with programming,” said Sarah Cummins, WWE Senior Vice President of Consumer Products. “We believe the shift to online is here to stay and we are prepared to serve our fans however they want to transact.
“It is also important to think like a fan and understand the new reality of everyday life,” Cummins continued. “We noticed our collector category of Championship Title Belts and event-specific merchandise was growing, so we doubled down there. We also wanted to diversify our portfolio of products and invested in new selling platforms/branded sites that focused on WWE Legends and our YouTube gaming channel UpUpDownDown to deliver fresh, new merchandise.”
Outside of consumer products, the WWE’s Q3 earnings were positive. Where there was an expected loss in revenue from live events, the WWE saw tremendous increases across the board from media revenue. Its biggest gain came from core content rights fees, which almost doubled from $209.3 million to $398.5 million year-over-year thanks to deals struck with Fox and NBCU.
The WWE has three more pay-per-view events before the end of the year: Survivor Series, TakeOver and TLC: Tables Ladders & Chairs.