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Liberty Media, the company controlled by billionaire mogul John Malone that houses assets like audio entertainment giant SiriusXM, the Atlanta Braves baseball club and the Formula One racing circuit, reported improved fourth-quarter financials Friday. And it touted the outlook for live events giant Live Nation Entertainment.
Quarterly revenue at the Atlanta Braves nearly tripled from $35 million to $102 million, while the Formula One Group’s revenue jumped 62.3 percent to $787 million, the company disclosed in its earnings report. SiriusXM, the home of Howard Stern, recorded a 4.2 percent revenue increase for the final quarter of 2021 to $2.28 billion.
In terms of operating income, Liberty SiriusXM Group swung from a $527 million loss to a $450 million profit for the fourth quarter, the Braves’ loss narrowed from $35 million to $1 million, and the Formula One operating result swung from a loss of $41 million to a profit of $62 million.
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on a morning analyst call touted his sports and entertainment branded company’s partnership with Netflix and its Drive to Survive docuseries as its audience success has grown the fan base for Formula 1 in the U.S. market and brought new viewers to the sport.
“It’s been a win all round. It’s grown our sport, not only in the U.S., but around the world. I hope the marriage continues for a long time,” Maffei said. The rating success for Netflix with the docu-series as it heads into a fourth season has been seen as a possible prelude to the video streaming giant bidding to secure a live broadcast deal for the pro race car series.
Netflix and Amazon Prime are considered possible bidders alongside current holder ESPN for the Formula One rights when they come up for grabs at the end of 2022. Maffei told analysts that Formula 1 cut a three year deal with ESPN in 2019 that prized “broader coverage over the money.”
Given the greater audience reach of Formula 1 in the U.S. market, the Liberty Media boss hinted at seeking a more lucrative broadcast deal this time round.
“We will weigh what’s available to us, and I don’t think it’s a complete trade-off. There will be degrees of access, degrees of coverage and there’ll be degrees of money and obviously having the benefit of more U.S. races and more potential U.S. sponsorship and global sponsorship with a U.S. presence weighs into our thinking about that breadth as well and how long a deal we want to cut,” Maffei argued.
He returned to the Netflix pact over Drive to Survive to highlight the appeal of Formula 1 to the streaming giant.
“It’s a win product for Netflix. It (Drive to Survive) was number one in 27 countries. It’s relatively cost-effective programming for them. So I think it’s an absolute win and as much for Netflix as for us. I like to think we’ve done well for Netflix. When I talk to Reed and Ted, they’re really enthused about the product,” Maffei said of discussions with Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos.
During the latest quarter, Liberty Media saw its total operating income reach $511 million for the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compared with a $603 million loss in the year-ago period. Total revenue for the quarter rose from $ billion to $ billion.
Said Maffei in a statement that accompanies his company’s latest financial results: “It was a strong end to 2021 for the Liberty companies. The finish to the Formula 1 World Championship could not have been more suspenseful. The compelling action on the track continues to power the business’s flywheel, and we recently made numerous announcements around value-creating agreements.”
He also touted that SiriusXM “hit record revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization levels” and that the Atlanta Braves “are still basking in the glory of their World Series title.”
And he lauded positive momentum at Live Nation, in which Liberty owns a 31 percent stake, according to its website. The company “benefited from incredible fan demand in the back half of the year, and all leading indicators point to record performance in 2022,” he said. All in all, “we enter this year energized and excited for the next areas of growth across the board,” Maffei said.
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