Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2020
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 (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 December 31, 2020 aggregated $287 million, which is payable as follows: $128 million in 2021, $43 million in 2022, $33 million in 2023, $28 million in 2024, $28 million in 2025 and $27 million thereafter. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players, coaches and executives may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.

Programming, music royalties and other contractual arrangements

Sirius XM Holdings has entered into various programming agreements under which Sirius XM Holdings’ obligations include fixed payments, advertising commitments and revenue sharing arrangements. In addition, Sirius XM Holdings has entered into certain music royalty arrangements that include fixed payments. Amounts due under programming and music royalty agreements are payable as follows: $709 million in 2021, $496 million in 2022, $234 million in 2023, $163 million in 2024 and $121 million in 2025. 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 Holdings 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: $127 million in 2021, $31 million in 2022, $23 million in 2023, $15 million in 2024 and $14 million in 2025.

SXM-7 Satellite

Sirius XM Holdings has entered into agreements for the design, construction and launch of two additional satellites, SXM-7 and SXM-8. On December 13, 2020, SXM-7 was successfully launched. In-orbit testing of SXM-7 began on January 4, 2021.  During in-orbit testing of SXM-7, events occurred which have caused failures of certain SXM-7 payload units. An evaluation of SXM-7 is underway. The full extent of the damage to SXM-7 is not yet known.

Sirius XM Holdings does not expect its satellite radio service to be impacted by these adverse SXM-7 events.  Sirius XM Holdings’ XM-3 and XM-4 satellites continue to operate and are expected to support its 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 that satellite is expected to be launched into a geostationary orbit in 2021.

Sirius XM Holdings has procured insurance for SXM-7 and SXM-8 to cover the risks associated with each satellite's launch and first year of in-orbit operation.  The aggregate coverage under those insurance policies with respect to SXM-7 is $225 million. Sirius XM Holdings has notified the underwriters of these policies of a potential claim with respect to SXM-7.  As of December 31, 2020, Sirius XM Holdings has $220 million capitalized in construction in progress related to SXM-7.

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. In 2020, the regular baseball season was comprised of 60 games and Formula 1 had 17 Events. In addition, these businesses have been and may continue to be precluded from holding events with 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.


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.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act Suits. On March 13, 2017, Thomas Buchanan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a class action complaint against Sirius XM Holdings in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The plaintiff alleges that Sirius XM Holdings 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 Holdings’ 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 Holdings from making, or having made, any calls to land lines that are listed on the National Do-Not-Call registry or Sirius XM Holdings’ internal Do-Not-Call registry.

Following a mediation, in April 2019, Sirius XM Holdings entered into an agreement to settle this purported class action suit. The settlement resolves the claims of consumers for the period October 2013 through January 2019. As part of the settlement, Sirius XM Holdings paid $25 million into a non-reversionary settlement fund from which cash to class members, notice, administrative costs, and attorney's fees and costs will be paid. The settlement also contemplates that Sirius XM Holdings will provide three months of service to its All Access subscription package for those members of the class that elect to receive it, in lieu of cash, at no cost to those class members and who are not active subscribers at the time of the distribution. The availability of this three-month service option will not diminish the $25 million common fund. As part of the settlement, Sirius XM Holdings will also implement certain changes relating to its “Do-Not-Call” practices and telemarketing programs. On January 28, 2020, the Court issued an order and final judgment approving the settlement. This charge is included in the selling, general and administrative expense line item in the consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2019, but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA (as defined in note 18) for the corresponding period as this charge does not relate to the on-going performance of the business.

SoundExchange Royalty Claims. On June 7, 2018, Sirius XM Holdings entered into an agreement with SoundExchange, Inc. (“Sound Exchange”), the organization that collects and distributes sound recording royalties pursuant to Sirius XM Holdings’ 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 Holdings made a one-time lump sum payment of $150 million to SoundExchange on July 6, 2018. Sirius XM Holdings 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 (as defined in note 18) for the corresponding period as this expense was not incurred as a part of Sirius XM Holdings’ 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 Holdings’ statutory license for sound recordings for the period January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2017.

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 Music Modernization Act 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 these actions, and it intends to defend these actions 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 (the “CRB”) 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. Given the delay in the proceeding, the deadline for the CRB to deliver its initial rate determination has been extended to April 15, 2021.