Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Commitments And Contingencies

Commitments And Contingencies
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2016
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, 2016 aggregated $278 million, which is payable as follows: $100 million in 2017,  $78 million in 2018, $40 million in 2019, $29 million in 2020, $31 million in 2021 and none 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 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 arrangements amounted to $52 million, $53 million and $52 million for the years ended December 31, 2016,  2015 and 2014, respectively.


A summary of future minimum lease payments under cancelable and noncancelable operating leases as of December 31, 2016 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 2016.


Programming and content


SIRIUS XM has entered into various programming agreements under which SIRIUS XM's obligations include fixed payments, advertising commitments and revenue sharing arrangements. Amounts due under such agreements are payable as follows: $312 million in 2017, $285 million in 2018, $262 million in 2019, $223 million in 2020 and $154 million in 2021. Future revenue sharing costs are dependent upon many factors and are difficult to estimate; therefore, they are not included in the amounts above.




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. This settlement resulted in a dismissal of all appeals and mutual releases of the parties. 

SIRIUS XM was a defendant in several purported class action suits that alleged that SIRIUS XM, or call center vendors acting on its behalf, made numerous calls which violated provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (the “TCPA”). The plaintiffs in these actions alleged, among other things, that SIRIUS XM called mobile phones using an automatic telephone dialing system without the consumer’s prior consent or, alternatively, after the consumer revoked his or her prior consent. In one of the actions, the plaintiff alleged that SIRIUS XM violated the TCPA’s call time restrictions, and in one of the other actions, the plaintiff also alleged that SIRIUS XM violated the TCPA’s do not call restrictions. These purported class action cases were titled Erik Knutson v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., No. 12-cv-0418-AJB-NLS (S.D. Cal.), Francis W. Hooker v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., No. 4:13-cv-3 (E.D. Va.), Yefim Elikman v. Sirius XM Radio Inc. and Career Horizons, Inc., No. 1:15-cv-02093 (N.D. Ill.), and Anthony Parker v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., No. 8:15-cv-01710-JSM-EAJ (M.D. Fla).

SIRIUS XM has entered into an agreement to settle these purported class action suits.  The settlement was approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in December 2016.  The settlement is expected to resolve the claims of consumers beginning in February 2008 relating to telemarketing calls to their mobile telephones.  Approximately 200 consumers, or less than 0.002% of the consumers who received notice of the settlement, opted-out of this class action settlement. As part of this settlement, SIRIUS XM made a $35 million payment to a settlement fund during 2016 (from which notice, administration and other costs and attorneys’ fees will be paid) and is offering participating class members the option of receiving three months of SIRIUS XM’s Select service for no charge.

In August 2013, SoundExchange, Inc. (“SoundExchange”) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that SIRIUS XM underpaid royalties for statutory licenses during the 2007-2012 rate period in violation of the regulations established by the Copyright Royalty Board for that period.  SoundExchange principally alleges that SIRIUS XM improperly reduced its calculation of gross revenue, on which the royalty payments are based, by deducting revenue attributable to pre-1972 recordings and Premier package revenue that is not “separately charged” as required by the regulations.  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 the case properly should be pursued in the first instance before the Copyright Royalty Board rather than the district court.  In its opinion, the District Court concluded that the gross revenue exclusions in the regulations established by the Copyright Royalty Board for the 2007-2012 period were ambiguous and did not, on their face, make clear whether our royalty calculation approaches were permissible under the regulations.  In December 2014, SoundExchange filed a petition with the Copyright Royalty Board requesting an order interpreting the applicable regulations.

On January 10, 2017, the Copyright Royalty Board issued a ruling concluding that SIRIUS XM correctly interpreted the revenue exclusions applicable to pre-1972 recordings, but in certain cases did not apply those exclusions properly.  The ruling further indicated 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” in accordance with the regulations.  The ruling is subject to legal review by the Register of Copyrights, and will be transmitted back to the district court for further proceedings, such as adjudication claims relating to damages and defenses.  SIRIUS XM intends to exhaust all available options for review and/or appeal of adverse aspects of the Copyright Royalty Board’s ruling, including portions of the ruling which SIRIUS XM believes are unclear or inconsistent with the governing law.  In addition, SIRIUS XM believes it has substantial defenses to those SoundExchange claims that can be asserted before the district court, and will continue to defend this action vigorously.

This matter is titled SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.13-cv-1290-RJL (D.D.C.), and 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 the action is publicly available in filings under the docket numbers. This matter is not related to certain claims under state law brought by owners of pre-1972 recording copyrights arising out of our use and performance of those recordings.

At December 31, 2016, SIRIUS XM concluded that a loss, in excess of our recorded liabilities, is reasonably possible in connection with the SoundExchange royalty claims.  The estimable portion of such possible loss ranges from $0 to $70 million plus any related interest or late fees.  Based on SIRIUS XM’s defenses, such a loss is not considered probable at this time and no liability for such additional loss has been recorded at December 31, 2016.  The matters underlying this estimated range and the estimable portion of reasonably possible losses may change from time to time and the actual possible loss may vary from this estimate.

In June 2015, SIRIUS XM settled (the “Capitol Settlement”) a separate suit brought by Capitol Records LLC (“Capitol Records”), Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., Warner Music Group Corp. and ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. relating to SIRIUS XM’s use and public performance of pre-1972 recordings for $210 million, which was paid during July 2015. The settling record companies claim to own, control or otherwise have the right to settle with respect to approximately 85% of the pre-1972 recordings SIRIUS XM has historically played. SIRIUS XM has also entered into certain direct licenses with other owners of pre-1972 recordings, which in many cases include releases of any claims associated with its use of pre-1972 recordings.

SIRIUS XM recognized $108 million during June 2015 for the portion of the $210 million Capitol Settlement related to SIRIUS XM’s use of pre-1972 sound recordings for the periods prior to the Capitol Settlement during June 2015. The $108 million expense is included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2015 but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA for the corresponding period as this expense was not incurred as a part of the Company’s normal operations for the period, and this lump sum amount does not relate to the on-going performance of the business. SIRIUS XM recognized approximately $40 million and $19 million to Revenue share and royalties within the consolidated statement of operations with respect to the Capitol Settlement subsequent to the settlement date related to SIRIUS XM’s use of pre-1972 sound recordings during the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, and is included as a component of Adjusted OIBDA. The remaining $43 million of the settlement is recorded in Other current assets within the consolidated balance sheets as of December 31, 2016, which will be amortized to Revenue share and royalties within the consolidated statement of operations over the future service period through December 2017.

Additionally, during the fourth quarter of 2016, SIRIUS XM recorded $46 million related to music royalty legal settlements and reserves. The $46 million expense is included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2016 but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA for the corresponding period as this expense was not incurred as a part of the Company’s normal operations for the period, and this lump sum amount does not relate to the on-going performance of the business.