Braves’ revenue rose to franchise-record $476M in 2019; expenses up, too

The final financial numbers are in on the 2019 Braves.

The Braves’ revenue increased to a franchise-record $476 million last year, up 8% from $442 million in 2018, according to figures disclosed Wednesday by team owner Liberty Media.

The company attributed the increase to higher attendance and higher local and national broadcast rights fees.

“Very solid revenue growth,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said on a conference call with investment analysts. “Third consecutive year of (increased) attendance at Truist Park, our newest name, hahaha, for the ballpark.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year that the Braves' local TV deal with Fox Sports South/Southeast is worth considerably more than previously widely believed. It brought in $83 million last year and rises to about $113 million in the final year of the contract in 2027, according to figures Maffei cited in a May 2019 presentation.

Maffei addressed that topic again Wednesday, saying: “We have a good (TV) contract, not an amazing one. It was a very low one when we bought it from Time Warner; it has been renegotiated (in part). It was the longest in existence at the time and is still among the longest that has ever been written. Because of that, it is relatively low, even at its adjusted value, against the size of our territory.”

Liberty Media said in its financial report that, of the Braves’ $476 million in 2019 revenue, $438 million came from baseball sources and $38 million from real-estate development at The Battery Atlanta. Baseball revenue, which rose from $404 million in 2018, includes ticket and concession sales, broadcast rights fees, sponsorships, etc.

However, Liberty Media also said in its report that the Braves’ revenue growth in 2019 was “more than offset” by higher expenses.

Thus, the Braves’ operating profit before depreciation and amortization — the most commonly used measure, along with revenue, of a pro sports franchise’s financial performance — was $54 million last year, down from $94 million in 2018.

Liberty Media attributed the increased expenses to “higher player salaries, increased baseball operations costs related to the new spring training facility and higher player development costs, increased obligations under MLB’s revenue sharing plan and higher concession-related costs because of increased attendance.”

The Braves finished last season with a major-league player payroll of $144 million, including $6 million in buyouts of 2020 options in several players’ contracts – up from $130 million at the end of the 2018 season. Barring significant additional acquisitions during spring training, the Braves are projected to open this season with a player payroll of about $150 million.

The Braves’ overall expenses totaled $422 million in 2019 before depreciation, amortization and stock-based compensation, compared with $348 million in 2018, Liberty Media said.

After accounting for $71 million in depreciation and amortization and $15 million in stock compensation, the Braves showed a loss of $32 million for 2019, Liberty Media said.

The increase in revenue continued a trend since the move from Turner Field to SunTrust Park (now Truist Park).  The Braves’ 2019 revenue of $476 million was up 82% from revenue of $262 million in 2016, their final season at Turner Field.

The Braves’ debt at the end of last year was $559 million, up from $540 million three months earlier. Liberty attributed the increased debt to “additional borrowing to fund the second phase” of development of The Battery, the mixed-use complex adjacent to the stadium.

On Liberty Media’s quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts Wednesday, Maffei said the company is looking forward to the Braves season.

“We are excited for our on-field prospects in 2020,” he said. “I’d also note we have seen a very good advance on sales of tickets.”