WWE flexes its Q4 muscle

Profit leaps almost 40% to $21.5 mil

Shares of World Wrestling Entertainment rose 6.4% on Tuesday after the sports entertainment powerhouse reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings thanks to strength across its businesses.

WWE CEO Linda McMahon said that the company is having "good negotiations" with networks that could end up carrying its Friday night "SmackDown" show that is ending its CW run this year. A spokesman declined comment on talk that News Corp.'s MyNetworkTV is one of the front-runners.

WWE's quarterly pay-per-view revenue increased despite an additional event in the year-ago quarter as higher-revenue buys from domestic markets represented a higher share of overall buys. COO Michael Sileck said WWE feels it has stabilized its PPV buys after a tough first-half 2007 and hopes to see growth down the line.

WWE Films will have no releases this year, but one feature, "12 Rounds," starring John Cena, is going into production soon with a budget of about $20 million, the firm said. Sileck also said WWE is working on direct-to-video titles in the $4 million-$5 million range, at least one of which is co-financed with a studio to mitigate risk after disappointing film results so far.

WWE Films brought in no fourth-quarter profit, just like in the year-ago period, even though it recorded $3.1 million in revenue in the latest period.

WWE reported a 38.9% increase in its fourth-quarter profit to $21.5 million. Revenue rose 23% year-over-year to $132.6 million, helping WWE set a full-year revenue record of $485 million.

Its stock closed up 98 cents to $16.29.
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