Ryman Hospitality Properties’ country-focused entertainment business, Opry Entertainment Group, saw revenue grow 57.3% to $77.2 million in the third quarter, the company reported Monday (Oct. 31). Through the first nine months of 2022, the entertainment segment grew 86.2% to $183.6 million.
Excluding acquisitions and investments over the past three years, Opry Entertainment Group’s revenue and EBITDA were 19% and 21% higher than the same period in 2019, the CEO said Colin Reed. Among its properties are the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Wild Horse venues, as well as the Circle media network, a three-year-old joint venture with Gray Television.
“This is the same type of growth we saw pre-pandemic,” Reed said. However, the company lowered the upper end of its guidance range for full-year entertainment-adjusted EBITDAre (a real estate version of EBITDA) from $80 million to $76 million (the lower end of the range remained at $72 million).
Opry Entertainment Group is benefiting from increasingly strong tourist interest in Nashville. Outgoing CEO Reed said Nashville International Airport had a record 1.83 million travelers in June, up 9% from the same month in 2019. Nashville also set a record for hotel demand in June at 875,000 room nights, up 11% than in June 2019.
Ultimately, Ryman wants the Opry Entertainment Group to “thrive as an independent, separate entity,” Reed said. To that end, in the second quarter Ryman sold 30% of Opry Entertainment Group to investment firm Atairos Group and media giant NBCUniversal for a combined $300 million in a deal that closed in the second quarter. The new investors have the right to request an initial public offering four years after the deal – in 2026 – or sell their stake back to Ryman for cash or stock, the president said Mark Fioravanti, who will succeed Reed as CEO on Jan. 1, 2023. Prior to the seventh anniversary in 2029, Atairos Group and NBC Universal may sell their interest back to Ryman if there has been no sale, spin-off or IPO.
Bringing in new investors should help Opry Entertainment Group’s efforts to capitalize on the popularity of country music and culture. Ole Red, a chain of multi-level bar/music venues created by the company in collaboration with a country star Blake Sheltonopened its fourth location in Orlando in 2020 and a fifth location in May at Nashville International Airport. A sixth place in Las Vegas is planned for 2023.
The company branched out to another fast-growing city in the second quarter of completes its acquisition of block 21a mixed-use property in Austin, Texas that includes ACL Live at Moody Theatre, home of the TV show Austin City Limits Theatreas well as the W Austin Hotel and retail and office space.
Reed is optimistic that Nashville’s growth will benefit the Opry Entertainment Group without hurting its core hospitality business. There are more than 50 new hotel developments in Nashville-Davidson County, Reed said, and the city projects over 2,600 additional rooms will be available in the next two years. Those hotels are not competitors to Ryman’s Opryland Resort and Convention Center on the outskirts of town, he noted, and will bring additional customers to Ryman’s entertainment properties in town.
“Many of these new visitors will end up seeing a show at the Ryman, touring the Opry House or spending an evening at the Ole Red or Wild Horse,” another Nashville venue in his portfolio, Reed said. “When they leave Nashville and return home, or they go to Austin or Las Vegas on their musical pilgrimage, we will be there and continue to engage with them, whether through our investments in expanding the Ole Red footprint or deepen our virtual reach across linear TV, digital streaming or online.”