Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments And Contingencies

Commitments And Contingencies
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2018
Commitments and Contingencies  
Commitments And Contingencies

(12)   Commitments and Contingencies


In connection with agreements for the sale of assets by the Company or its subsidiaries, the Company may retain liabilities that relate to events occurring prior to its sale, such as tax, environmental, litigation and employment matters. The Company generally indemnifies the purchaser in the event that a third party asserts a claim against the purchaser that relates to a liability retained by the Company. These types of indemnification obligations may extend for a number of years. The Company is unable to estimate the maximum potential liability for these types of indemnification obligations as the sale agreements may not specify a maximum amount and the amounts are dependent upon the outcome of future contingent events, the nature and likelihood of which cannot be determined at this time. Historically, the Company has not made any significant indemnification payments under such agreements and no amount has been accrued in the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements with respect to these indemnification guarantees.

Employment Contracts

The Atlanta Braves and certain of their players and coaches have entered into long-term employment contracts whereby such individuals' compensation is guaranteed. Amounts due under guaranteed contracts as of March 31, 2018 aggregated $223 million, which is payable as follows: $110 million in 2018,  $45 million in 2019, $32 million in 2020, $34 million in 2021 and $2 million thereafter. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players and coaches may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.

Operating Leases

The Company and its subsidiaries lease business offices, have entered into satellite transponder lease agreements and use certain equipment under lease arrangements.


The Company has contingent liabilities related to legal and tax proceedings and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. Although it is reasonably possible the Company may incur losses upon conclusion of such matters, an estimate of any loss or range of loss cannot be made. In the opinion of management, it is expected that amounts, if any, which may be required to satisfy such contingencies will not be material in relation to the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements.

SoundExchange Royalty Claims.  In August 2013, SoundExchange, Inc. (“SoundExchange”) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (“SoundExchange I”) alleging that SIRIUS XM underpaid royalties for statutory licenses in violation of the regulations established by the Copyright Royalty Board (“CRB”) for the 2007-2012 period.  SoundExchange principally alleges that SIRIUS XM improperly reduced its gross revenue subject to royalties by deducting revenue attributable to pre-1972 recordings and Premier package revenue that was not “separately charged” as required by the regulations. SIRIUS XM believes that it properly applied the gross revenue exclusions contained in the regulations established by the CRB. SoundExchange is seeking compensatory damages of not less than $50 million and up to $100 million or more, payment of late fees and interest and attorneys’ fees and costs.

In August 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in response to SIRIUS XM’s motion to dismiss the complaint, stayed the case on the grounds that it properly should be pursued in the first instance before the CRB rather than the District Court.  In its opinion, the District Court concluded that the gross revenue exclusions in the regulations established by the CRB for the 2007-2012 period were ambiguous and did not, on their face, make clear whether SIRIUS XM’s royalty calculation approaches were permissible under the regulations.  In December 2014, SoundExchange filed a petition with the CRB requesting an order interpreting the applicable regulations.

On September 11, 2017, the CRB issued a ruling concluding that SIRIUS XM correctly interpreted the revenue exclusions applicable to pre-1972 recordings.  Given the limitations on its jurisdiction, the CRB deferred to further proceedings in the District Court the question of whether SIRIUS XM properly applied those pre-1972 revenue exclusions when calculating its royalty payments.  The Judges also concluded that SIRIUS XM improperly claimed a revenue exclusion based on its Premier package upcharge, because, in the Judges’ view, the portion of the package that contained programming that did not include sound recordings was not offered for a “separate charge.”

SIRIUS XM has filed a notice of appeal of this ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. SIRIUS XM expects that the ruling by the CRB in this matter will be transmitted back to the District Court for further proceedings, such as adjudication of claims relating to damages and defenses, although those proceedings may be delayed pending the appeal of the Judges’ interpretive decision.  SIRIUS XM believes it has substantial defenses to those SoundExchange claims that can be asserted in the District Court, and will continue to defend this action vigorously.

This matter is captioned SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.13-cv-1290-RJL (D.D.C.); the CRB referral was adjudicated under the caption Determination of Rates and Terms for Preexisting Subscription Services and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services, United States Copyright Royalty Board, No. 2006-1 CRB DSTRA.  Information concerning SoundExchange I is publicly available in filings under the docket numbers.

On December 12, 2017, SoundExchange filed a second action against SIRIUS XM under the Copyright Act in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (“SoundExchange II”). This action includes claims that SoundExchange has also attempted to add to the SoundExchange I litigation through a proposed amended complaint. SoundExchange alleges that SIRIUS XM has systematically underpaid it for SIRIUS XM’s statutory license by impermissibly understating SIRIUS XM’s gross revenue, as defined in the applicable regulations and, in certain cases, understating the performances of recordings on SIRIUS XM’s internet radio service. Specifically, the complaint in SoundExchange II alleges that: from at least 2013 through the present, SIRIUS XM improperly excluded from gross revenue a portion of SIRIUS XM’s revenue received from its Premier and All Access packages attributable to premium channels; at least between 2010 and 2012, SIRIUS XM improperly excluded late fees received from subscribers from the calculation of gross revenue; at least between 2010 and 2012, SIRIUS XM improperly excluded certain credits, adjustments and bad debt for which the underlying revenue had never been included in the first instance; at least between 2010 and 2012, SIRIUS XM improperly deducted from gross revenue certain transaction fees and other expenses—for instance, credit card processing fees, collection fees and sales and use taxes—that are purportedly not permitted by the CRB regulations; at least between 2010 and 2012, SIRIUS XM improperly deducted amounts attributable to performances of recordings claimed to be directly licensed on both SIRIUS XM’s satellite radio and internet radio services, even though they were not; at least between 2010 and 2012, SIRIUS XM improperly excluded from royalty calculations performances of recordings less than thirty seconds long under the provisions of the CRB regulations and the Webcaster Settlement Agreement; from 2010 through 2012, SIRIUS XM excluded from royalty calculations performances of songs on its internet radio services that SIRIUS XM claimed it was unable to identify; SIRIUS XM owes associated late fees for the previously identified underpayments under the applicable CRB regulations; and SIRIUS XM has underpaid SoundExchange by an amount exceeding 10% of the royalty payment and SIRIUS XM is therefore obligated to pay the reasonable costs of an audit. SIRIUS XM believes that it properly applied in all material respects the regulations established by the CRB. SoundExchange is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial from the alleged underpayments, unspecified late fees and penalties pursuant to the CRB’s regulations and the Webcaster Settlement Agreement and costs, including reasonable attorney fees and expenses.

This matter is titled SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No. 17-cv-02666-RJL (D.D.C.). Information concerning SoundExchange II is publicly available in filings under the docket number.

As of March 31, 2018, SIRIUS XM concluded that a loss, in excess of its recorded liabilities, was considered remote in connection with SoundExchange I or SoundExchange II. The assumptions underlying SIRIUS XM’s conclusions may change from time to time and the actual loss may vary from the amounts recorded.