Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2018
Commitments and Contingencies  
Commitments and Contingencies

(17)  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 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 December 31, 2018 aggregated $165 million, which is payable as follows: $93 million in 2019,  $36 million in 2020, $34 million in 2021, $2 million in 2022, less than one million in 2023 and none thereafter. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players and coaches may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.


The Company leases business offices, has entered into satellite transponder lease agreements and uses certain equipment under lease arrangements. These leases provide for minimum lease payments, additional operating expense charges, leasehold improvements and rent escalations, and certain leases have options to renew. The effect of the rent holidays and rent concessions are recognized on a straight-line basis over the lease term, including reasonably assured renewal periods.

Rental expense under such agreements amounted to $64 million, $58 million and $52 million for the years ended December 31, 2018,  2017 and 2016, respectively.

A summary of future minimum lease payments under cancelable and noncancelable operating leases, as of December 31, 2018 follows (amounts in millions):






Years ending December 31:



































It is expected that in the normal course of business, leases that expire generally will be renewed or replaced by leases on other properties; thus, it is anticipated that future lease commitments will not be less than the amount shown for 2018.

Braves Holdings provided funding for the new stadium and the land during the initial construction period, until the initial reimbursement by the Authority in September 2015, at which time the land was conveyed to the Authority. Braves Holdings was deemed the owner (for accounting purposes) of the stadium during the construction period and costs were classified as construction in progress (“CIP”), within the Property and equipment, net line item. Costs of the project were captured in CIP along with a corresponding financing obligation, reported in other liabilities, for amounts funded by the Authority. At the end of the construction period in March 2017, the Company performed an analysis and determined that due to Braves Holdings’ continuing involvement with the property as a result of the purchase option at the end of the lease term, the stadium did not qualify for sale-leaseback accounting treatment. Accordingly, Braves Holdings applied the financing method of accounting whereby Braves Holdings began making license payments and amortizing the financing obligation to the Authority using the effective interest rate method over a 30 year term. The stadium was reclassified from CIP and placed into service on March 31, 2017. Also at this time, Braves Holdings began depreciating the stadium over a 45 year estimated useful life.

Programming, music royalties and other contractual arrangements

SIRIUS XM has entered into various programming agreements under which SIRIUS XM’s obligations include fixed payments, advertising commitments and revenue sharing arrangements. In addition, SIRIUS XM has entered into certain music royalty arrangements that include fixed payments. Amounts due under programming and music royalty agreements are payable as follows: $430 million in 2019, $335 million in 2020, $218 million in 2021, $79 million in 2022 and $38 million in 2023. Future revenue sharing costs are dependent upon many factors and are difficult to estimate; therefore, they are not included in the amounts above. In addition, SIRIUS XM has entered into agreements related to certain satellite and transmission costs, sales and marketing costs and in-orbit performance payments to the manufacturer of its satellites. Amounts due under these agreements are payable as follows: $146 million in 2019, $69 million in 2020, $20 million in 2021, $13 million in 2022 and $10 million in 2023.


The Company has contingent liabilities related to legal and tax proceedings and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. We record a liability when we believe that it is both probable that a liability will be incurred and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. We evaluate developments in legal matters that could affect the amount of the liability accrual and make adjustments as appropriate. Significant judgment is required to determine both probability and the estimated amount of a loss or potential loss. We may be unable to reasonably estimate the reasonably possible loss or range of loss for a particular legal contingency for various reasons, including, among others, because: (i) the damages sought are indeterminate; (ii) the proceedings are in the relative early stages; (iii) there is uncertainty as to the outcome of pending proceedings (including motions and appeals); (iv) there is uncertainty as to the likelihood of settlement and the outcome of any negotiations with respect thereto; (v) there remain significant factual issues to be determined or resolved; (vi) the relevant law is unsettled; or (vii) the proceedings involve novel or untested legal theories. In such instances, there may be considerable uncertainty regarding the ultimate resolution of such matters, including a possible eventual loss, if any. 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 consolidated financial statements.

In connection with a commercial transaction that closed during 2002 among Liberty, Vivendi Universal S.A. (“Vivendi”) and the former USA Holdings, Inc., Liberty brought suit against Vivendi and Universal Studios, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and fraud by Vivendi. On June 25, 2012, a jury awarded Liberty damages in the amount of €765 million, plus prejudgment interest, in connection with a finding of breach of contract and fraud by the defendants. On January 17, 2013, the court entered judgment in favor of Liberty in the amount of approximately €945 million, including prejudgment interest. The parties negotiated a stay of the execution of the judgment during the pendency of the appeal. Vivendi filed notice of its appeal of the judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. During the first quarter of 2016, Liberty entered into a settlement with Vivendi which resulted in a $775 million payment to settle all claims related to the dispute described above. Following the payment of a contingency fee to our legal counsel, as well as amounts payable to Liberty Global plc, an additional plaintiff in the action, Liberty recognized a net pre-tax gain on the legal settlement of approximately $511 million. The recovery received in connection with the settlement is attributed to the Formula One Group. This settlement resulted in a dismissal of all appeals and mutual releases of the parties.

During the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2016, SIRIUS XM recorded $45 million and $46 million, respectively, related to music royalty legal settlements and reserves. The expenses are included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016, respectively, but have been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA for the corresponding periods as these expense were not incurred as a part of SIRIUS XM’s normal operations for the periods and do not relate to the on-going performance of the business.

On March 13, 2017, Thomas Buchanan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a class action complaint against SIRIUS XM in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The plaintiff in this action alleges that SIRIUS XM violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (the “TCPA”) by, among other things, making telephone solicitations to persons on the National Do-Not-Call registry, a database established to allow consumers to exclude themselves from telemarketing calls unless they consent to receive the calls in a signed, written agreement, and making calls to consumers in violation of SIRIUS XM’s internal Do-Not-Call registry. The plaintiff is seeking various forms of relief, including statutory damages of $500 for each violation of the TCPA or, in the alternative, treble damages of up to $1,500 for each knowing and willful violation of the TCPA and a permanent injunction prohibiting SIRIUS XM from making, or having made, any calls to land lines that are listed on the National Do-Not-Call registry or SIRIUS XM’s internal Do-Not-Call registry. The plaintiff has filed a motion seeking class certification, and that motion is pending. SIRIUS XM believes it has substantial defenses to the claims asserted in this action, and intends to defend this action vigorously.

On June 7, 2018, SIRIUS XM entered into an agreement with SoundExchange, Inc. (“Sound Exchange”), the organization that collects and distributes sound recording royalties pursuant to SIRIUS XM’s statutory license, to settle the cases titled SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.13-cv-1290-RJL (D.D.C.), and SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.17-cv-02666-RJL (D.D.C.). A description of these actions is contained in our prior public filings. In connection with the settlement, SIRIUS XM made a one-time lump sum payment of $150 million to SoundExchange on July 6, 2018. SIRIUS XM accrued for a portion of this liability in prior years and recorded a $69 million charge for the remaining liability during the second quarter of 2018. This expense is included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018, but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA for the corresponding periods as this expense was not incurred as a part of SIRIUS XM’s normal operations and does not relate to the on-going performance of the business. The settlement resolved all outstanding claims, including ongoing audits, under SIRIUS XM’s statutory license for sound recordings for the period January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2017.