Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2021
Commitments and Contingencies

(10)   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 (current and former), coaches and executives have entered into long-term employment contracts whereby such individuals' compensation is guaranteed. Amounts due under guaranteed contracts as of March 31, 2021 aggregated $387 million, which is payable as follows: $167 million in 2021, $63 million in 2022, $54 million in 2023, $48 million in 2024 and $55 million thereafter. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players, coaches and executives may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.

SXM-7 Satellite

On December 13, 2020, Sirius XM Holdings successfully launched its SXM-7 satellite and in-orbit testing began on January 4, 2021. During in-orbit testing of SXM-7, events occurred which caused failures of certain SXM-7 payload units. The evaluation of SXM-7 concluded that the satellite will not function as intended, which Sirius XM Holdings considered to be a triggering event prompting the assessment as to whether the asset's carrying value of $220 million was recoverable. In evaluating the recoverability of SXM-7, Sirius XM Holdings compared the asset's carrying value to the undiscounted cash flows derived from the satellite. SXM-7 was determined to be a total loss and therefore, the carrying value of the satellite is not recoverable and an impairment charge of $220 million was recorded to impairment, restructuring and acquisition costs in the condensed consolidated statement of operations during the three months ended March 31, 2021.  

Sirius XM Holdings has procured insurance for SXM-7 to cover the risks associated with the satellite's launch and first year of in-orbit operation. The aggregate coverage under the insurance policy with respect to SXM-7 is $225 million. Sirius XM Holdings has notified the underwriters of this policy of a potential claim with respect to SXM-7 and expect to file an insurance claim in the second quarter of 2021. At this time, Sirius XM Holdings is unable to reliably estimate the timing and amount of insurance recoveries and will record the insurance recoveries when they are probable and estimable.

Sirius XM Holdings does not expect its satellite radio service to be impacted by these adverse SXM-7 events. The XM-3 and XM-4 satellites continue to operate and are expected to support Sirius XM Holdings’ satellite radio service for several years.  In addition, the XM-5 satellite remains available as an in-orbit spare.  Construction of the SXM-8 satellite is underway and is expected to be launched into a geostationary orbit in 2021.

Potential Impact of COVID-19

The business operations of Formula 1, the Atlanta Braves and Live Nation initially were largely, if not completely, suspended at the outset of COVID-19, and continue to be impacted. These businesses may be required to hold a smaller number of events than originally planned or may not be able to reschedule previously canceled or postponed events. The 2021 regular baseball season is expected to be comprised of approximately 160 games. Formula 1 has scheduled 23 Events in 2021. These businesses may continue to be precluded from holding events with fans in attendance, or may only be permitted to have a limited number of fans in attendance, for an undetermined period of time, thereby reducing revenue associated with fan attendance. It is also unclear whether and to what extent COVID-19 concerns will impact the use of and/or demand for the entertainment, events and services provided by these businesses and demand for sponsorship and advertising assets, even after the restrictions are lifted. In many cases, the impact of cancelled events, closed venues and reduced attendance will substantially decrease our revenue. Due to these revenue reductions, these businesses have looked

to reduce expenses, but may not be able to reduce expenses to the same degree as our decline in revenue, which is expected to adversely affect our results of operations and cash flow.

Restructuring of Sirius XM Holdings’ leases

During the three months ended March 31, 2021, Sirius XM Holdings evaluated its office space needs and, as a result of such analysis, surrendered certain office leases, primarily in New York, New York and Oakland, California.  Sirius XM Holdings assessed the recoverability of the carrying value of the operating lease right of use assets related to these locations. Based on that assessment, Sirius XM Holdings recorded impairments aggregating $18 million to reduce the carrying value of the assets to their fair values. Additionally, Sirius XM Holdings accrued expenses of $6 million for which it will not recognize any future economic benefits and wrote off leasehold improvements of $1 million.  The fair values of the assets were determined using a discounted cash flow model based on Sirius XM Holdings management's assumptions regarding the ability to sublease and the remaining term of the leases. The total charge of $25 million was recorded to impairment, restructuring and acquisition costs in the condensed consolidated statement of operations for the three months ended March 31, 2021.


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.

Pre-1972 Sound Recording Litigation.  On October 2, 2014, Flo & Eddie Inc. filed a class action suit against Pandora in the federal district court for the Central District of California. The complaint alleges a violation of California Civil Code Section 980, unfair competition, misappropriation and conversion in connection with the public performance of sound recordings recorded prior to February 15, 1972 (“pre-1972 recordings”). On December 19, 2014, Pandora filed a motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“anti-SLAPP”) statute, which following denial of Pandora’s motion was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In March 2017, the Ninth Circuit requested certification to the California Supreme Court on the substantive legal questions. The California Supreme Court accepted certification. In May 2019, the California Supreme Court issued an order dismissing consideration of the certified questions on the basis that, following the enactment of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, Pub. L. No. 115-264, 132 Stat. 3676 (2018) (the “MMA”), resolution of the questions posed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was no longer “necessary to . . . settle an important question of law.”

The MMA grants a potential federal preemption defense to the claims asserted in the aforementioned lawsuits. In July 2019, Pandora took steps to avail itself of this preemption defense, including making the required payments under the MMA for certain of its uses of pre-1972 recordings. Based on the federal preemption contained in the MMA (along with other considerations), Pandora asked the Ninth Circuit to order the dismissal of the Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Pandora Media, Inc. case. On October 17, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a memorandum disposition concluding that the question of whether the MMA preempts Flo and Eddie's claims challenging Pandora's performance of pre-1972 recordings "depends on various unanswered factual questions" and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

In October 2020, the District Court denied Pandora’s renewed motion to dismiss the case under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, finding the case no longer qualified for anti-SLAPP due to intervening changes in the law, and denied Pandora’s renewed attempt to end the case.  Alternatively, the District Court ruled that the preemption defense likely did not apply to Flo & Eddie’s claims, in part because the District Court believed that the MMA did not apply retroactively.  

Pandora promptly appealed the District Court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit, and moved to stay appellate briefing pending the appeal of a related case against Sirius XM.  On January 13, 2021, the Ninth Circuit issued an order granting the stay of appellate proceedings pending the resolution of a related case against Sirius XM.

Sirius XM Holdings believes it has substantial defenses to the claims asserted in this action, and intends to defend this action vigorously.

Copyright Royalty Board Proceeding to Determine the Rate for Statutory Webcasting.  Pursuant to Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act, the Copyright Royalty Board initiated a proceeding in January 2019 to set the rates and terms by which webcasters may perform sound recordings via digital transmission over the internet and make ephemeral reproductions of those recordings during the 2021-2025 rate period under the authority of statutory licenses provided under Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act. Sirius XM Holdings filed a petition to participate in the proceeding on behalf of its Sirius XM and Pandora businesses, as did other webcasters including Google Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters. SoundExchange, a collective organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties to artists and copyright holders, represents the various copyright owner participants in the proceeding, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Because the proceeding focuses on setting statutory rates for non-interactive online music streaming (commonly identified as “webcasting”), the proceeding will set the rates that Pandora pays for music streaming on its free, ad-supported tier and that Sirius XM pays for streaming on its subscription internet radio service.  This proceeding will not set the rates that Sirius XM Holdings pays for its other music offerings (satellite radio, business establishment services) or that it pays for interactive streaming on the Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium services.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multi-week hearing before the Copyright Royalty Judges originally scheduled to begin in Washington, DC in March 2020, was postponed and conducted virtually via videoconference between August 4 and September 9, 2020. Subsequent to the hearing, the parties submitted post-trial briefing and reply briefing.  Closing arguments were held in November 2020. The final rates proposed for the 2021-2025 period by Sirius XM, Pandora, and the other webcaster participants are below the existing statutory rates. Specifically, Sirius XM and Pandora proposed rates of $0.0011 per performance for nonsubscription commercial webcasters and $0.0016 per performance for subscription commercial webcasters. SoundExchange proposed increasing the existing statutory rates to $0.0028 per performance for nonsubscription commercial webcasters and $0.0031 per performance for commercial subscription webcasters. In March 2021, the Copyright Royalty Judges requested, and the Copyright Office granted, an additional sixty days to deliver the initial determination of rates and terms for the proceeding.  As a result, the initial determination is due from the Copyright Royalty Judges on or before June 14, 2021 rather than April 15, 2021.