Research Group Implies WWE's Bad Creative and Low Ratings Could Cause their Value to Decease

Posted By James Walsh on 07/29/20

Lightshed Partners, a technology, media and telecommunications research firm, released an analysis on WWE stock this week (h/t PWInsider). According to Lightshed’s analysis, WWE media and TV rights are going to decline if the company is not able to improve its ratings soon. This means WWE might soon lose the level of its rights fees with broadcast partners USA Network and FOX. The report took WWE to task for its recent creative issues and failure to create new top level Superstars.

Lightshed Partners, a top technology, media and telecommunications research firm based in New York City, released a deep analysis on the WWE stock yesterday, citing their belief that unless WWE turns their television ratings around, the company will not be able to maintain the level of rights fees they currently receive from NBC Universal and FOX.

Lightshed’s analysis noted that WWE creative issues were at the center of WWE’s problem. The report stated the following on WWE’s creative issues:

“COVID or no COVID, creative appears to be at the center of the issues. Vince McMahon has acknowledged things need to change multiple times. However, while there have been short lived experiments, the content appears to continuously return to a similar formula under his absolute control. McMahon went so far as to hire creative heads for Raw and SmackDown a year ago, with Paul Heyman heading Raw and Eric Bischoff heading SmackDown. Neither are in their roles a year later. Bischoff was fired after four months on the job and Heyman was relieved last month. The role is now consolidated under Bruce Prichard.”

The analysis also blamed WWE having a problem in an “inability to create new Superstars,” with the report noting that WWE has not had high level Superstars in recent years. While Roman Reigns became close in star power, he still wasn’t on the same level as talents from past eras. The report added:

“More broadly, there really has been very little younger talent that have broken through at all on their way to replenishing even the middle level of stars in the men’s division. This has made the company more susceptible to injuries / absentees of major stars. Much of the talent with drawing power is aging. And, the big draws for major events have been in bringing back even older wrestlers such as Goldberg and The Undertaker. That is a band-aid, not a long-term strategy.”

The analysis also put blame on Vince McMahon removing Paul Heyman from power as Executive Director of Raw, noting that Heyman was trying to build up new talent. However, after Heyman was removed, WWE refocused on established talent, a strategy which Lightshed says didn’t work. The report stated, “Raw’s focus has again shifted more heavily to much more established stars. It has not worked; as we mentioned viewership declines are accelerating again.”

Additionally, the report said WWE does have time before TV rights will be negotiated again, so there is time for the company to rebound and recover. Triple H (aka Paul Levesque) was cited as a person who could help steer the ship back in the right direction. The report also stated, “A longer-term approach, even if ratings return more slowly, is probably the right prescription.”

Regarding the WWE Network, Lightshed stated: “We still believe those companies that can have [Direct to Consumer] relationships are far more better off in the current media ecosystem. Admittedly, though, we have grown more skeptical of the Network with time. It might just be that WWE doesn’t have the DNA to be great at DTC / grow it far beyond what it is today.”