Recap: George Barrios’ Participation In JP Morgan’s Investor Conference

George Barrios
Photo: Forefront Magazine

WWE Co-President, George Barrios, was on the 47th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference Call on Tuesday, discussing various topics such as:

  • SmackDown Live to Fox
  • WWE being more sports-oriented on Fox
  • The new FS1 show coming in the Fall
  • Fan engagement
  • The reduction of House Shows
  • The current status of WWE in India
  • The current status of WWE in China
  • NXT Global Localization
  • All Elite Wrestling
  • Independent Contractors

Here are the highlights…

George Barrios On what the move to Fox means for SmackDown Live:

“We felt really good on the positioning on both. Continuing the partnership with NBCU and starting a new relationship with Fox. There’s some math around broadcast, probably 30-35% more homes so we’re excited about that… It creates value for Fox and value for WWE… In some ways, Comcast is a large multi-business organization, that has a lot of priorities. We’d like to think we’re one of them, I think we are. We feel like we are. For Fox I think we’re a smaller more focused company, they’ve said, live is their linchpin in a lot of ways. I think we’re relatively more important to Fox because of that, and we’re excited and the fact that we’ll launch right around Thursday night football and the platform that gives you, right around the World Series and the platform that gives you, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity for them and a lot of opportunity for us.”

On WWE on Fox going more sports-oriented:

“The content with its unique blend in sports and entertainment…i’m not sure that Fox is leaning in heavy on live sports and news, so that’s their strategy, so my guess is that’ll be the primary focus, the immediacy the fact that it’s live…the fact that they’re going to have this heavy sports audience, it might be an interesting dynamic on what that means to the SmackDown audience, but the content itself, we’re gonna continue to be this, what we think is the best of both worlds of sports and entertainment, with storytelling and creativity. That’s not going to change.”

On the FS1 show debuting on in the Fall:

“We’re thrilled! We’ve seen around the world, the value of these clip shows… but we’ve seen the value of shows like that to continue to drive engagement, not dissimilar to what we do on the social platforms to try to continue the storytelling, trying to do it 24/7, although Vince continues to tell us that there’s 168 hours in a week, and we’ve got to on the 168…but I think the FS1 show is gonna be something similar to where you kind of continue the excitement, I think people are going to love it and Fox has a lot of expertise doing this and I think it’s going to be great for fans.”

George Barrios was asked about Fan engagement being down and how it will wind uprising with the current new hires behind the scenes:

“There’s definitely an ebb and flow…I think the last time we saw this unique element of so many absences that we saw, I think was in 2010…But ultimately what gives us confidence, is we’ve been creating stars, and putting smiles on peoples faces…Vince has been doing this coming on 40 years…so that’s what gives me the confidence, is we’ve done it before, and we’ll continue to be able to do it in the future.”

On the thought of reducing the number of house shows:

“We’re always looking, but I wouldn’t say there aren’t any plans on that at the moment.”

On the number of international rights deals and WWE’s India deal:

“We’re in discussions in multiple markets throughout the world. For India, for someone who goes there a lot, what’s transpired there over the last few years has been remarkable in terms of the number of people who previously didn’t have access to video content and now having access because of the mobile broadband revolution, it’s amazing. So we’re excited, over the next 10-20 years or so, if that market continues to grow in 7-10% a year, as you know, GDP and per capita GDP it’s the biggest revenue of media and entertainment in any market around the world. At that level of annual growth in the next 10-20 years, it’ll probably be between 4 and 8x in GDP and per capita which we think is transformational.”

On WWE in China and what the status is there:

“China is probably the most recent market entry that we have, certainly for a major market, it’s only about 10 or 11 years… we had made the decision in how we allocated social and digital resources, we focused on the global platforms 10 years ago and went really hard on that and had less of a focus on the Indigenous Chinese platforms 10 years ago, we changed that 3 years ago, and our partnership with PPT T.V. / APB Sports, being a central element of that we went live in China for the first time ever in Mandarin. So we’ve seen a really a great trajectory over the social and digital engagement over that time frame. We’re far behind where we are on YouTube and Facebook around the world, there’s a huge focus internally on continuing to build on the success we’ve seen so, I’d agree, it’s really an important market to us…”

On the NXT Global localization and how it ties to the international strategy:

“For a long time we had a developmental system so people process tools around attracting, developing, and then retaining the best talent in the world, and the manifestation of that is, In Orlando, and I always tell people, business partners, or potential investors, if you really wanna go and get a sense of comfort for the durability of WWE, go to the performance center because you see the amount of structure and the rigor that there is in creating stars…we’ve done that process for a long time, Paul (Triple H) took it to another level. We just had a tryout in Mumbai India, the largest talent tryout we ever had, we had over 70 talent from India, aspiring WWE talent, and we’re gonna bring a subset of them into Orlando to train as part of the next generation…the opportunity to extend that academy model will create a place where people can stay home (rather than travel to Orlando)…we think that’s an amazing, almost transformational for us…”

On AEW and the big show coming in the next few weeks:

“So, yeah like in general, if you’re in the business of fighting for time, for peoples time, I thought the best comment I’ve ever heard on that concept was from Reed Hastings who said, sleep is competition. You are competing for peoples time…we are fighting for peoples time, so everyone’s a competitor, everything, it’s kinda like, welcome to the game. We’ll see how it goes.

On the independent contractor situation in WWE and if there will ever be a time to go to employee status:

“It’s not unlike golf or tennis… we think it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. I’m not sure that the distinction that you mention [between employee and contractor] is that important in the long-term.”


Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.


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