Near the end of 2017, reports surfaced of a massive deal that would see Disney buy more than $50 billion in FOX assets, including 22 regional sports networks that broadcast the games of about half of the 30 major league baseball franchises. After a bidding war between Comcast and Disney saw the latter win out, moves needed to be made to satisfy antitrust concerns. Given Disney’s already powerful place in the market with its ESPN family of channels, one of those moves included the sale of those regional sports networks. The first domino fell in March when the Yankees agreed to buy back the YES Network at a total valuation of around $3.5 billion dollars. Now, the remaining dominoes appear to have fallen, with the Wall Street Journal first reporting that Sinclair Broadcasting Group has agreed to buy the remaining 21 networks, valued at $10.6 billion.
Handing the negotiations over to Sinclair is wrought with peril given their past negotiating tactics and their likely strategy for the future. This deal is a step backward for baseball as it becomes increasingly reliant on a company that operates in a confrontational and potentially outdated manner that risks alienating fans, who may lose coverage of their local team without receiving an alternative means to watch baseball and grow the sport.
Source: Craig Edwards, FanGraphs
If the name Sinclair sounds familiar to you, perhaps you recall last year how it required all of its news anchors to read the same script.
“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”