Liberty Media Details Formula One Losses Amid Pandemic

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Chase Carey, CEO and Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group, looks on as a press conference is held outside the paddock after for the F1 Grand Prix of Australia was cancelled at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 13, 2020.

The Formula One Group, led by CEO Chase Carey, suffered a steep drop in first-quarter revenue and expects live TV races to resume in July without fans in the stands.

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, on Thursday reported stable first-quarter overall revenues, but a steep 84 percent revenue loss from its Formula One race car division.

Liberty Media posted earnings of $293 million, up from a year-earlier profit of $162 million, on overall revenues at $2.013 billion, virtually unchanged from a year-earlier $2.012 billion. But the company got off to a bad start for the year after losing Formula One racing events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue during the latest quarter was driven by a 5 percent gain at SiriusXM to $1.95 billion, while revenue tumbled 84 percent at the Formula One Group to $29 million and held steady at $22 million for the off-season Braves, the same as in 2019.

Much of the analyst call for Liberty Media focused on the financial impact from the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak on the Formula One auto racing series, a marquee event for TV sport channels worldwide.

Liberty Media doesn't expect Formula One races to continue in the second quarter, and the racing circuit plans a potentially 15-event season starting in early July. Chase Carey, CEO of the Formula One Group, said initial races in Europe would have no live attendance, and spectators may likely return with races in Asia and the Middle East later this year.

"Clearly, these are very different events without fans," Carey told analysts during a morning call, likely to impact sponsorship and digital revenues more than his broadcast business.

Having no fans in the stands at Atlanta Braves games when they resume this summer will also impact Liberty Media's bottom line, company CEO Greg Maffei told analysts. "That will obviously impact profitability … if we're not able to have fans present. And certainly the expectation is the early games won't have fans," Maffei said.