Liberty Media Swings to Third-Quarter Loss, Revenue Falls

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei

The company, led by CEO Greg Maffei and chairman John Malone, posts its latest financials.

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 detailed its third-quarter financials amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Liberty Media posted a loss attributable to its stockholders of $114 million, compared with a year-ago profit of $193 million. Quarterly revenue fell 5 percent to $2.73 billion.

Third-quarter revenue rose 1 percent to $2.03 billion at SiriusXM, fell 6 percent at the Formula One Group to $597 million, and dropped from $212 million to $110 million at the Atlanta Braves.

Operating income was virtually unchanged at $461 million at SiriusXM, while Formula One swung from a $32 million operating profit to a $115 million loss, and the Braves swung from a $21 million profit to a $16 million loss."

Said Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in a statement: "Our employees and management teams executed exceptionally well given the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19. SiriusXM posted strong results, returned capital of $544 million and announced Jennifer Witz will assume the role of CEO in 2021. The Braves had an outstanding season, clinching their third straight National Leage East title. Formula 1 impressively planned a 17 race calendar and has produced some thrilling races thus far, including at two new venues."

Maffei during a morning analyst call discussed SiriusXM appearing close to signing a new contract deal with Howard Stern. "I want to see the ink on the paper. And Howard deserves to make his own announcements. But most people are forecasting that he's likely to re-sign," he said.

Wall Street has seen music streaming giant Spotify as the main alternative for Stern to SiriusXM, given its growing podcasting business. And after European racing fans viewers watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix on YouTube, Formula One CEO Chase Carey said partnerships with other streaming platforms were under discussion as the TV sports property embraces the shift towards online viewership.

"It is trying to find places where we can do things and expand those relationships," Carey told analysts. He also discussed TV ratings declines for major properties like the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball regular season and playoff games after they restarted competition amid the pandemic.

"The overlapping of everything coming at the same time, the NHL and NBA on top of baseball -- the competition of these events for eyeballs clearly had a signficant impact on the events," Carey said. The lack of cheering fans in the stands at F1 races has had far less of an impact on TV ratings for F1 races, than in arenas for pro hockey or basketball games, he added.

Carey also talked about efforts by F1 to claw back where possible streaming and other digital rights when renewing broadcast deals worldwide. "It's always an issue to broadcasters looking for protection from competing products," he argued.

Carey said online platforms are an opportunity for F1 to connect with its most passionate fans, and there are differing attitudes among international broadcasters on pursuing that digital strategy. "Our core relationships are certainly priority one, so if we can find a way to do it and expand and build the digital platform, we will, and if it becomes a real impediment, we'll find other ways," he added.