Second quarter revenue for Liberty Media’s sports properties showed a strong rebound after last year’s pandemic-induced disasters. Formula One revenue surpassed $500 million while the Atlanta Braves reported more than $200 million in revenue in the period ended June 30.
“We remain impressed with the way Formula One continues to navigate the continued challenges for the pandemic,” said Liberty CEO Greg Maffei, on a call with analysts today discussing results. “I lost count of how many times we have made changes to the 2021 calendar, but we continue to move forward.”
Formula One revenue was $501 million in its second quarter, up from a pandemic-impacted $24 million last year. The mark is still well below 2019’s $620 million sales in the spring quarter of 2019 with the same number of races held. Race revenue was constrained by local government rules restricting attendance and the temporary eliminating of F1’s Paddock Club hospitality offering. F1 for Liberty generated an operating loss of $36 million, as expenses rose and payments to teams were recognized.
Management sounded an encouraging note on new F1 business efforts such as social media engagement, but hedged on the future of Formula One television. “Our vision for F1 TV I think it has evolved,” Maffei said. “Just the sheer heft of the amount of content we have caused us to think about whether that was going to be a meaningful way to connect with our customers.” He added that aggregated services, whether linear or digital, “are going to be the primary way we get paid.”
Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves revenue hit $216 million, of which $204 million was baseball-related, despite attendance constraints, a season-ending injury to star Ronald Acuña, and the club scraping by around .500. The team is averaging more than 29,000 fans a game, with strong concessions and merchandise sales, and it’s having trouble keeping jerseys in stock, noted Maffei. By comparison, in 2019, the club tallied $208 million with $198 million from baseball (non-baseball income is primarily from The Battery Atlanta, an adjacent real estate development). The team did have one more home game this year, 42, than in 2019. The Braves had $32 million in operating income in the quarter. Maffei said the team and MLB are looking for ways to speed up the game “I’m not convinced moving the pitcher’s mound is going to be happening anytime soon, but all things are open as possible,” he added, in response to an analyst question.
In addition to controlling F1 and the Braves, Liberty Media is a conglomerate that also owns most of SiriusXM satellite radio, which has sales of $2.16 billion, and has a large minority stake in concert promoter Live Nation. With both of those businesses, management sounded a very optimistic note, emphasizing strength in advertising and live events.
Shares of F1, the Braves, Sirius XM and Live Nation were little changed Friday after the earnings announcement.