WWE chief financial officer George Barrios opened up about a variety of issues during a business presentation at the 24th annual ROTH OC Growth Stock Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. this past Tuesday.
In a lengthy Q&A session, Barrios reaffirmed WWE's commitment to the upcoming network, noting the promotion planned to spend $35-45 million on the project this year.
Considering the litany of problems that have plagued the proposed channel in recent times, including one frightening report that claimed the network has yet to be picked up by one television provider, the CFO's commitment to spending such a colossal amount of money on it in the future may not necessarily be a good sign.
Barrios, who joined WWE as their CFO in March 2008, declined to go into any depth about the company's revenue model for the network, citing WWE's "fairly intense" negotiations with cable providers and a wish not to lose leverage by revealing all their cards just yet.
The CFO also explained the decision to go through with the project was made roughly three years ago after WWE decided they needed to "monetize more content" and a channel would be the most shrewd way to do this.
Notably, Barrios also repeated the company talking point that UFC are not viewed as direct competition to WWE: "It's a misconception (about UFC affecting WWE's business). They're primarily a PPV business. We're primarily a TV business."
The executive also bragged to one audience member (who was complaining about the promotion's lukewarm business) that WWE's television shows "actually blow UFC out of the water in terms of ratings."
Interestingly, for all his positivity and enthusiasm (he is speaking for WWE, after all), Barrios was shockingly candid and frank when it came to talking about the company's struggling film division, WWE Studios.
Barrios labelled the company's recent plan to film, produce and distribute their own movies on DVD (after a short theatrical run) "an absolute executive disaster" and "an expensive lesson we had to learn."
After a series of huge flops like That's What I Am, The Chaperone and Inside Out, the movie division has cost the company a fortune in the last year, with WWE owner Vince McMahon even admitting if things didn't turn around soon, they would take the hint that it was time to"get out of the movie business."
Barrios noted that the company plans to spend $15-20 million on six to eight movie projects in 2012, but that this time, WWE will be teaming with outside companies and distributors to minimize the risk. WWE's recent deal with 20th Century Fox is the first step in what will hopefully be a new and improved business model.
Talk briefly turned to The Marine 3: Homefront, WWE's next movie project and the latest installment in their popular Marine franchise. (The Marine and The Marine 2, while critically maligned and badly reviewed, are two of the rare WWE films that actually made a profit when all was said and done, hence why the company may be eager to churn out another military-themed action movie.)
Barrios confirmed a WWE star would be taking the lead role in the movie, but declined to specify which wrestler it would be.
Barrios discussed the company's commitment to capturing more of a global audience with their influx of new international stars, noting, "We can't just launch tours. What we make sure we do is we make sure our roster is global in nature."
Barrios later named Alberto Del Rio, Sin Cara and Jinder Mahal as three future stars with international appeal.