Amazon is trying to buy 22 regional sports TV networks (RSNs) from the Walt Disney Company, according to a CNBC report today.
In June, Disney received Department of Justice approval to buy 21st Century Fox properties on the condition that it divest Fox-owned regional sports networks (RSNs). Together, these networks have programming rights for 44 Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League teams.
“In addition to Amazon, Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA also made first round bids for the full slate of networks,” CNBC wrote, citing anonymous sources.
Fox itself could submit an offer to buy the RSNs back in the second round of bidding, which is expected to take place before the end of 2018, CNBC wrote. The 22 RSNs were reportedly valued at $22.4 billion by Guggenheim Securities in December 2017, but CNBC said it wasn’t able to find out the amounts of the first-round bids.
The Fox RSNs include the YES Network, TV home of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, which is drawing interest as a standalone purchase. The Yankees themselves “are moving forward with plans to buy back the YES Network,” Bloomberg reported last week.
Amazon already streams Thursday night National Football League games in the US, the US Open tennis tournament in the UK, and some English Premier League matches in the UK; buying the RSNs would greatly expand Amazon’s sports programming.
Buying the RSNs could also put Amazon into some contentious negotiations with Comcast and other cable TV companies. The Yankees network was blacked out on Comcast during the 2016 season due to a money dispute, for example.
We contacted Amazon and will update this story if we get a response.
Sale required to preserve competition
Disney hasn’t quite completed its purchase of Fox properties, as it still needs approval from regulators in a few countries.
The DOJ told Disney that it must sell all 22 Fox RSNs “to one or more Acquirers acceptable to the United States [government]” within 90 days of completing the Fox acquisition. The DOJ required the divestiture to preserve competition between Fox’s and Disney’s cable sports programming; Disney owns ESPN.
The Fox RSNs are Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Carolinas, Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Indiana, Fox Sports Kansas City, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Ohio, SportsTime Ohio, Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports San Diego, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports Sun, Fox Sports Tennessee, Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Wisconsin, and the YES Network.
Disney beat Comcast in a bidding war for the Fox properties earlier this year.