WWE, an organization that’s already the king of the ring on social media, will attempt to expand its online presence this year with the $6.5 billion sports entertainment company hinting it may be putting itself up for sale .
WWE surpassed 20 million followers on its peak TikTok account during its most recent quarter, the first sports league to do so, and is launching three international TikTok accounts after WWE handle Español TikTok hit nearly 2 million followers in its first year, according to the company.
WWE’s online presence is already large and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The company’s YouTube channel surpassed 92 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, making it one of only 10 channels on the platform to surpass 90 million subscribers, according to Paul Levesque, the company’s chief content officer and director who has struggled under the name of Triple H.
To put these numbers into perspective, the National Basketball Association has 19.8 million season-ticket holders, the National Football League has 10.6 million, and Major League Baseball has 4.05 million.
Part of the reason is that unlike the NFL, NBA, and MLB, WWE has no off-season. He produces new content from premium television shows and live events all year round and his fans eat it up.
The company’s online presence is so pervasive that it seeps into the social media posts of some of the world’s greatest athletes.
After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and MVP Patrick Mahomes tweeted a picture of himself with the Vince Lombardi trophy in one hand and a WWE belt in the other.
That photo has been viewed more than 23 million times, and that number continues to rise.
Constant innovations that blend with entertainment set WWE apart on social media platforms, said Christopher Zook, president and chief investment officer of CAZ Investments.
“He has consistently found ways to generate interest and stay ahead of the ever-increasing changes in consumer behavior,” Zook said. “The viral and fan-service nature of their content is how they’ve built so much staying power.”
The increase in sports viewership has rewarded the value of organizations with large followings and this puts WWE at the forefront of companies looking to expand into new areas, Zook said, particularly when trying to reach key demographics willing to spend.
And the platforms WWE focuses on are increasingly attracting a crowd with discretionary income to spend.
Among people aged 18 to 29, 95 percent say they use YouTube, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults’ social media use in 2021.
TikTok is expected to overtake Facebook next year as the most-used social network among U.S. adults over the age of 18, according to Insider Intelligence. The research firm expects TikTok users aged 18-24 in the United States to spend an average of 1 hour on the platform each day this year.
And WWE has been quick to partner with people who have huge followings on social media platforms, most recently social media personality Logan Paul.
Three months after signing a contract with WWE last year, Paul pulled out a cell phone and filmed himself jumping off the ropes onto Roman Reigns. That video garnered more than 40 million views on Paul’s and WWE’s social platforms in less than 24 hours, according to Levesque, surpassing all social media posts for the Stamford, Connecticut-based company last year.
A mid-air collision in the ring last month between Paul and wrestler Ricochet racked up another 26.5 million views across all platforms.
The company is also pushing digital programming such as a weekly show called “The Bump,” which can be watched live every Wednesday across all of WWE’s digital and social media platforms.
“Looks to roll out more digital original programming in 2023, as it has proven to be an effective platform for piloting new shows and testing creativity, all while creating fresh programming for our sales team to sell on,” Levesque said in a post-earnings conference call this month.
The test will be how prospective buyers value WWE’s social media presence and that potential in the future.
However, Wall Street already appears to be very optimistic about the entertainment company.
In the past 12 months, shares of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. have risen by 50%, a period in which all major US stock markets have fallen into a severe depression.
Rumors of a sale increased late last year as WWE founder Vince McMahon returned to the company and took a seat on the board after a brief retirement.
In a letter dated December 20, but published in January, McMahon wrote: “Given the rapidly changing media landscape where more and more companies are seeking to own the intellectual property offered on their streaming platforms, I strongly believe that the best For all WWE shareholders and other stakeholders to do is undertake a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives.”
Zook, of CAZ Investments, believes potential buyers are aware that social media has changed the equation.
“When you combine the staying power of live sporting events, with the rapid growth of subscription content and a large social media presence, you can begin to see why sports franchises like WWE are becoming a more attractive asset to own.” Zook said.