The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) promotion has reported record revenue for the second quarter (Q2) of 2023, driven largely by the success of its live events.

The company’s revenue increased 25% to reach $410.3 million, setting a quarterly record. Operating income also increased 26% year-on-year (YoY) to $87.3 million, while adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) grew 54% YoY to $140.7 million.

The revenue increase was headlined by its live events division, which was up 51% YoY to $62 million. The period has now become the company’s highest-grossing live event quarter of all time.

There were 53 total ticketed live events in Q2, including 43 events in North America and 10 in international markets, with its domestic shows averaging an audience attendance of around 9,000.

WrestleMania 39, which aired in April, broke viewership and sales records for the event, with gate revenue exceeding $21.6 million, sponsorship income surpassing $20 million, and merchandise sales up by 20% from last year.

In July, WWE’s Money in the Bank event in London, UK became the company’s highest-grossing arena event in company history and also set new records for viewership, sponsorship revenue, merchandise revenue, and social media activity.

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Revenue for WWE’s media division, meanwhile, grew 32% YoY to $320.3 million, including $80.1 million in network revenue, $154.8 million in core content rights fees, $18.9 million in advertising and sponsorship revenue, and $66.5 million in “other” media revenue.

The company’s flagship programs SmackDown and Raw had increased viewership by 26% and 19%, respectively, in the 18 to 49 demographics, significantly outperforming overall broadcast and cable television, which both declined 12%.

WrestleMania, Backlash, and Night of Champions events set global unique viewership records with YoY increases of 29%, 34%, and 45%, respectively.

Looking ahead, WWE said it anticipates 2023 adjusted OIBDA in the range of $395 million to $410 million and third-quarter adjusted OIBDA in the range of $75 million to $85 million.

It said it also expects to generate record revenue in 2023 but sees a YoY decrease in third-quarter income due to “an expected decline in revenue at the consumer products segment and a decline in third-party original programming revenue, due to the timing of the production of premium WWE-themed series.”

The latest quarterly result comes after Endeavor, the international entertainment and sports giant, announced a deal to form a new publicly listed company alongside WWE.

The deal values Endeavor’s Ultimate Fighting Championship at $12.1 billion, with WWE valued at $9.3 billion. The tie-up will see those two organizations merge, creating a sports entertainment heavyweight with a value of $21.4 billion.  

Through the arrangement, Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling interest in the joint venture, while existing WWE shareholders will hold the remaining 49% stake.

The deal is expected to close sometime before the end of 2023, with founder and executive Vince McMahon mooted to be executive chairman of the business under Endeavor.

The company also disclosed that McMahon was served with a federal search warrant and grand jury subpoena on July 17. However, WWE noted that no charges have been brought.

During an earnings call yesterday, WWE chief executive Nick Kahn said: “We continue to fully cooperate with any investigation outside of that.”

The 77-year-old returned to WWE in January six months after retiring after the company board opened an investigation into an alleged $3-million ‘hush money’ settlement between him and an ex-employee with whom he had a consensual affair.

WWE’s board then reportedly uncovered “other, older non-disclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees of misconduct by Mr. McMahon” totaling more than $12 million over the last 16 years. He then stepped back from his duties in June before retiring a month later.

In January, McMahon elected himself back onto WWE’s board and appointed Michelle Wilson and George Barrios, former WWE co-presidents and directors, to the board.

He retook operational control to pursue a sale of WWE and lead its upcoming domestic media rights negotiations.

WWE hired US financial advisory firm Raine Group to assist the company's review of strategic alternatives, including a potential sale.