Sinclair Reaches Deal To Buy Disney’s Regional Sports Networks

Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ: SBGI) has reached a deal to buy 21 regional sports networks from the Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) for $10.6 billion. The deal gives Sinclair the rights to broadcast the games of dozens of professional teams. Sports content continues to draw the largest audiences on television and is mostly viewed live, making game-time advertising very valuable.

Chris Ripley, Sinclair’s chief executive, said, “This is a very exciting transaction. While consumer viewing habits have shifted, the tradition of watching live sports and news remains ingrained in our culture. As one of the largest local news producers in the country and an experienced producer of sports content, we are ideally positioned to transfer our skills to deliver and expand our focus on greater premium sports programming.”

Sinclair is currently the largest operator of local television stations in the United States. The company currently owns 191 TV stations. Sinclair has made investments in sports before. It owns the Tennis Channel and the digital television station Stadium. The new networks will be part of a new subsidiary to be called Diamond Sports Group.

Because Disney already dominates the market for televised sports through its ownership of ESPN, it was forced to divest the regional sports networks to gain approval for its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets. That deal closed in March. The deal with Sinclair will also require approval from the Department of Justice.

The networks being bought are largely devoted to airing baseball and basketball games and are available only on pay television systems. Some of the most notable networks acquired include:

  • Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket – UCLA, USC, Los Angeles Chargers, and Los Angeles Clippers games
  • Fox Sports Detroit – Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, Michigan State University and University of Michigan games
  • Fox Sports Florida – Miami Heat, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins, University of Miami, and Florida State University games
  • Fox Sports Ohio/SportsTime Ohio – Cleveland Cavaliers, Cincinnati Reds, and Ohio State University games