Liberty Media’s John Malone still believes in the future of live events despite coronavirus

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John Malone, Liberty Media

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The coronavirus pandemic has pushed events online by necessity. But Liberty Media Chairman John Malone is still bullish about the future of live events. 

“I think the thesis of live events is still a good one,” Malone said during Liberty Media’s annual meeting of stockholders Thursday. “Human beings are gregarious by nature. And I can tell you here in Florida, the bars are open and they’re pretty packed. So … we’ll see.”  

Malone is an icon in the media and cable industries, who built cable empire TCI in the 1970s before selling it to AT&T in 1999 for roughly $50 billion. Liberty Media operates and owns interests across the media, communications and entertainment businesses, including stakes in the Atlanta Braves baseball team and concert producer Live Nation.

Malone said he believes there will be a therapy and or a vaccine for Covid-19 “sooner rather than later that will get us back closer to normal.” 

“There’s undoubtedly going to be a hangover in terms of valuations and like everything else if this depression in valuation is excessive, it presents opportunity for those of us who believe in the longer-term thesis that this is a good place to be, live events,” he said. “Particularly where you have a substantial part of the revenue that has little to do with the gate attendance and a lot to do with television and digital distribution.”

Greg Maffei, who is Liberty Media’s president and CEO as well as the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, Sirius XM and TripAdvisor, said the company has seen evidence that there’s still demand for live events. He said “well under” 10% of concert customers have asked of refunds on postponed concerts, and mentioned there are some Atlanta Braves ticket holders that have deferred tickets instead of asking for refunds.

“There is demand for live events,” he said. “The question will be what can we do in the world of vaccines and therapeutics and social distancing to make sure those work for everybody involved, safely.” 

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