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Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:MSGE) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

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Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:MSGE) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 9, 2023

Operator: Good morning. Thank you for standing by and welcome to the Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Fiscal 2023 Second Quarter Earnings Conference Call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speakers remarks there will be a question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the call over to Ari Danes, Senior Vice President Investor Relations, Financial Communications and Treasury. Please go ahead.

Ari Danes: Thank you. Good morning, and welcome to MSG Entertainment’s fiscal 2023 second quarter earnings conference call. Dave Byrnes, our EVP and Chief Financial Officer will begin today’s call with an update on the company’s proposed spin-off, as well as a discussion of our entertainment and TAO Group segments. This will be followed by an update from Andrea Greenberg, President and CEO of MSG Networks. Dave will then conclude with a review of our financial results for the period. After our prepared remarks, we will open up the call for questions. If you do not have a copy of today’s earnings release, it is available in the Investors section of our corporate website. Please take note of the following. Today’s discussion may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance or results and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Please refer to the company’s filings with the SEC for a discussion of risks and uncertainties. The company disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements that may be discussed during this call. On pages 5 and 6 of today’s earnings release, we provide consolidated statements of operations and a reconciliation of operating income to adjusted operating income or AOI, a non-GAAP financial measure. And with that, I will now turn the call over to Dave.

Dave Byrnes: Thank you, Ari, and good morning, everyone. I’d like to begin today’s call with an update on the progress we have made toward our proposed spin-off. As you know in December we announced a revised plan for the separation of our businesses and are now pursuing a spin-off of our traditional live entertainment business from our MSG Sphere, MSG Networks and TAO Group businesses. We believe this revised structure is optimal for maximizing shareholder value as it creates two distinct companies each with enhanced strategic and financial flexibility to drive long-term growth. One would be a pure-play live entertainment company with a portfolio of assets that includes the Madison Square Garden Arena and the Christmas Spectacular production.

The other would pursue global growth opportunities around MSG Sphere, state-of-the-art venues that will deliver the next generation of entertainment experiences. Last month, we confidentially submitted an amended Form 10 statement with the SEC for the revised spin structure and expect to file our first publicly available Form 10 later this month. We also plan to issue an investor presentation on the new live entertainment company, which will include certain financial projections that illustrate the profitability of our core entertainment business. We are moving swiftly and anticipate completing the spin-off by the end of March subject to various conditions including final Board approval. We are also continuing to make significant progress around MSG Sphere and expect to open the venue in September.

In terms of construction, we are currently on track to finish installing LED on the Exosphere by the end of this month marking a significant project milestone. In total, the Exosphere will be 580,000 square feet of fully programmable LED lighting, creating the world’s largest LED screen, that to be seen not only by the millions visiting Las Vegas, but also become an iconic global landmark, photographed and shared on social. We have already started testing these screens and when illuminated believe this will be an unparalleled canvas on the Las Vegas skyline, for artists and brands to showcase original and impactful content. Inside the venue, we have begun installation of the 160,000 square foot interior LED display plane, which will wrap up over and around the audience creating a fully immersive visual environment, and will be the highest resolution LED screen in the world.

We are also continuing the build-out of the venues interior spaces including, the suites and hospitality areas that will elevate hospitality to an entirely new level. Attending an event at MSG Sphere, will be unlike anything, anywhere in the world and we expect it will become a must-visit destination for the global audience that visits Las Vegas. Our content plans for MSG Sphere include, a wide range of events from original immersive attractions, to music residencies, to marquee sporting and corporate events. All of which, will take full advantage of the venue’s state-of-the-art technologies. We are in active discussions with a number of iconic artists for residencies at MSG Sphere and are targeting between four and six headliners annually.

We also plan to showcase our original immersive attractions, multiple times a day year-round, a key reason why we believe MSG Sphere at the Venetian will become the most highly utilized venue in our portfolio. As you’ve heard us discuss before, we’ve been incredibly energized by the interest we’re seeing from prominent filmmakers to create content specifically for Sphere, and in the coming weeks we plan to share details on our debut original attraction, from a leading Hollywood director. We remain as confident as ever in the opportunity with MSG Sphere, and we look forward to sharing more details in the coming months. Now, let’s review our second quarter operational highlights, starting with the Entertainment segment, where we continued our strong momentum from the start of the year.

In total, we hosted over 380 events and more than 2.3 million guests across our performance venues this quarter. That included another busy schedule of concerts, as demand from both artists and fans alike remains robust. In fact, once again the majority of concerts held at our venues were sold out. We were also pleased to welcome back the Knicks and Rangers to the Garden, this past quarter for the start of their 2022 2023 regular seasons. As we look ahead to the second half of fiscal 2023, our calendar continues to fill up, as we head towards completing our first full year of bookings since before the pandemic. Turning to productions. Last month, the Christmas Spectacular, successfully completed its 89th season and the show’s first full run in three years and the results clearly, demonstrate the enduring popularity of this beloved holiday tradition.

This season, we sold over 930,000 tickets across 181 performances and achieved revenues of more than $130 million. Average per show revenue was up double-digit percentages versus both fiscal 2022 and fiscal 2020, which was the last holiday season unaffected by the pandemic and total revenue exceeded fiscal 2020 levels despite 18 fewer performances. These results also benefited from improving tourism, as New York City continues to make its way back following the pandemic. We were pleased to see the number of individual tickets sold to tourists, as well as group sales, a heavily tourist-driven category, both increased over 50% on a per show basis, year-over-year. We have also seen corporate demand remain strong across our business. Following a slate of successful renewals and new partnership announcements earlier this year, our marketing partnerships business remains on a path to exceed results for fiscal 2019, our last full year before the pandemic.

The same is true for premium hospitality, where we have now exceeded our annual goals on renewals and new sales across not only suite licenses but also our two other key premium products the Caesars Sportsbook Lounges and HUB Loft. Turning to Tao Group. Our second quarter results reflected strong performance across Tao’s slate of restaurants. As a reminder, during the year ago second quarter, Tao’s business faced the impact of the Omicron variant, which disrupted operations and dampened demand for corporate events during the holiday season. This year, we were pleased to see the return of the high-margin banquet business, particularly in Las Vegas and New York, another sign of the returning demand for corporate entertaining in our key markets.

In addition, this quarter’s results reflected the impact of a number of new venues including LAVO restaurant in Los Angeles, which opened last March and LAVO in San Diego, which opened in June. Tao also opened four new branded locations at the Moxy Hotel, on New York City’s Lower East side during the quarter, another great example of Tao building on its HUB strategy within a market. As we look ahead, Tao continues to make progress on its pipeline of new projects. By the end of the third fiscal quarter, Tao is expected to have opened another three new locations including one in Las Vegas, expanding the company’s foothold in that market to 15 total branded locations. These openings will be followed by a new waterfront restaurant in Miami before the end of the fiscal year, growing Tao’s presence there as well, along with a slate of other projects around the world as we start looking to fiscal 2024 and beyond.

With over 70 branded locations in more than 20 markets across four continents and growing, Tao Group has truly transformed into a global entertainment, dining and nightlife powerhouse, since we acquired a majority interest in 2017. As you know, we regularly evaluate ways to maximize shareholder value and believe that now is the appropriate time to explore a potential sale of our interest in Tao. While there is no assurance this process will result in a transaction, Tao’s recent success and future growth opportunities have generated significant interest from potential buyers. We will keep you updated as we have additional information to share. In summary, we are pleased with our positive momentum and look forward to the second half of the fiscal year, as we continue to pursue strategic opportunities including our planned spin-off and our MSG Sphere initiative that we are confident will position us well to drive long-term shareholder value.

With that I will now turn the call over to Andrea.

Andrea Greenberg: Thank you, Dave and good morning. At the halfway point of the NBA and NHL regular seasons, we are once again delivering a full slate of live games across our five professional sports teams along with comprehensive pre- and post-game coverage, behind-the-scenes footage and a host of other unique programming for our audiences. We have also recently completed renewals with several distributors including a multiyear agreement with one of our largest affiliates. As to our financial results, while we again experienced a decline in subscribers this quarter, we continue to build on our success in advertising delivering year-over-year growth in advertising and sponsorship revenue. This increase reflected both the timing of live game telecasts, as compared to the prior year, as well as continued growth in advertising revenue on a per game basis.

We are benefiting from our strong core of returning advertisers including the full run rate impact of our five sports betting partners and increased demand from categories such as auto and insurance. We are also pleased to see increasing advertiser demand for our non-ratings-based initiatives with significant year-over-year increases in branded content and our MSG Go product, as our partners continue to recognize the platform’s benefits in reaching additional viewers. And we have been executing on several new content and distribution opportunities. In December, we aired our first ever NHL bet cast presented by DraftKings one of 12 bet casts we have planned across Knicks and Rangers games over the course of the ’22, ’23 seasons. In addition, we recently launched nationally MSG Sports zone, a new free ad-supported streaming TV channel, which features a mix of original programming from our content library.

MSG Sports zone is currently available on Flex with other distributors expected to launch shortly. The introduction of this fast channel provides us incremental opportunities to monetize our current and archived non-game content and increases the exposure for our original sports gaming and other programming to a new national audience. At the same time, we’ve been progressing in the development of our direct-to-consumer offering including product type, pricing and technical requirements. We remain in ongoing discussions with potential distribution content and advertising partners. Through all of this, we’ve gained valuable insight into what an optimal product would look like. For example, how we can best integrate this new D2C platform with our current authenticated product MSG Go to create a streamlined experience for our users which integration we have decided to implement at launch.

We plan to offer annual, monthly and per game subscriptions and look forward to sharing more details including preliminary pricing in the very near future. So as we take these factors into consideration, we now expect to launch our D2C product MSG+ over the summer and prior to the start of next season, which we believe best positions us to realize the full potential of this overall opportunity. I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge the recent cost reduction program we’ve implemented in our business. After a thorough strategic review, we identified certain operating efficiencies, which will result in meaningful cost savings going forward. We remain mindful of the evolving ecosystem in which we operate and believe the activities we’ve outlined have certainly put our business on stronger ground.

With that I’d like to turn the call back over to Dave.

Dave Byrnes: Thank you, Andrea. Now let’s review our fiscal 2023 2nd quarter financial results. On a total company basis, we generated revenues of $642.2 million and adjusted operating income of $124.1 million, an increase of 24% and 63% respectively as compared to the fiscal 2022 second quarter. As a reminder, the prior year quarter was impacted by the Omicron variant which resulted in a shortened run of the Christmas Spectacular, a number of canceled and postponed events in our bookings business and a temporary impact to both demand and operations at Tao. Starting with the Entertainment segment, we generated revenues of $356.5 million and AOI of $66.3 million, both up significantly on a year-over-year basis. These increases were primarily driven by a full run of the Christmas Spectacular, the start of the Knicks and Rangers seasons, and continued strength in our bookings calendar.

AOI also reflected the impact of expenses related to MSG Sphere as well as costs related to the company’s planned spin-off. We anticipate Sphere costs continuing to increase over the remainder of the fiscal year as we prepare for the planned opening. Turning to MSG Networks, the segment generated $158.9 million in revenue and $39.3 million in AOI decreases of 1% and 10% respectively as compared to the prior year period. The decrease in AOI primarily reflected lower affiliate revenue and higher rights fees expense as well as higher other programming and production costs. These were partially offset by growth in advertising revenue. Finally, Tao Group generated $136 million of revenue and $18.7 million of AOI, up 16% and 7% respectively as compared to the prior year period.

The increase in revenues was driven by higher comparable venue revenues as well as the impact of new openings. AOI results also reflect higher venue level and corporate labor costs as well as higher entertainment costs. Turning to our balance sheet. As of December 31st, we had approximately $554 million of cash on hand and restricted cash and our debt balance was approximately $2.01 billion reflecting our recent MSG Sphere financing completed at the end of the quarter. Our construction cost estimate for MSG Sphere remains $2.175 billion, while project to-date construction costs through December 31st were approximately $2 billion which includes approximately $236 million of accrued costs that were not paid as of December 31st and is net of the $65 million received from the Venetian.

And lastly, with respect to the cost reduction program, which we announced last quarter and Andrea touched on earlier, we have now completed a strategic review of our businesses and have identified a number of efficiencies across our entertainment and MSG Networks segments. This includes targeted headcount reductions, which have now been implemented and resulted in a restructuring charge of $13.7 million in the fiscal second quarter as well as other non-labor-related cost savings initiatives. With that I will now turn the call back over to Ari.

Ari Danes: Thanks Dave. Operator, can we open up the call for questions?

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