Apr 22, 2019

Sinclair looks set to buy Disney's regional sports networks

Illustration of a baseball trophy with money tags on it

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Sinclair Broadcasting is the front-runner to buy a package of regional sports networks being sold by Walt Disney Co., following a bid of around $10 billion, per Fox Business Network. A deal could be announced as early as this week.

Why it matters: This would represent a major reversal of fortunes for Sinclair, which last year was blocked from buying Tribune Media after allegedly lying to the FCC and acting in bad faith with Tribune's board.

The backdrop: Disney, which owns ESPN, agreed to sell the RSNs in order to get regulatory approval for its $52 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets. Other bidders include Major League Baseball (now working with Liberty Media), the BIG3 basketball league and Amazon (which reportedly only wants one RSN, the New York Yankees-centric YES).

The bottom line: "Disney initially sought as much as $20 billion for the entire package... [But] most of the interest came from parties looking to snap up the RSNs at a low-ball price. Industry trends show declining cable profitability due to cord cutting and sports leagues maintaining ownership (rather than the networks), of the all-important digital rights for games to be viewed on wireless devices," write Fox Business' Lydia Moynihan and Charlie Gasparino.

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