Sinclair Broadcast Group shares were up more than 10% in early trading Monday after reports that its Chicago-area regional sports network was close to a carriage deal with Comcast. Comcast, the largest cable operator in the Chicago region had been slow to reach a carriage agreement with Sinclair’s Marquee Sports Network, the RSN it jointly owns with the Chicago Cubs. But reports over the weekend that the two may be close to a deal helped goose the stock.
A week after Charlie Ergen lamented that Sinclair didn’t own the Fox RSNs when their contract expired with Dish, Sinclair offered further optimism. “We continue to have discussions with Dish for the carriage of the RSNs and remain confident that our two companies will eventually reach a mutually acceptable carriage agreement,” Sinclair President-CEO Chris Ripley said on the company’s 4Q earnings call.
Baseball fans who also subscribe to YouTube TV got some bad news today when YouTube TV announced it will drop all Sinclair-owned Fox regional sports networks on Feb. 29. The announcement means fans in several markets — including New York, where the Yankees’ YES Network will be going away — will not be able to catch their favorite teams on YouTube TV. YouTube TV tweeted it was “unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair” to continue carrying Fox’s RSNs.
Denver-area regional sports network Altitude, blacked out by Comcast since August, sued the cable operator charging Comcast with violating antitrust laws and trying to put Altitude out of business.
Byron Allen is an equity and content partner in the RSN holding company that includes exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams consisting of 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams, and 12 National Hockey League teams.
The 21 popular local sports channels were pulled from the satellite carrier and Sling TV after Dish and Disney were unable to come to terms on carriage fees. Disney is in the process of selling the RSNs to Sinclair, which is said not to have been involved in the negotiations. No word on how the impasse might impact Sinclair’s ability to finance its $9.6B acquisition of the channels.
According to a recent research note, Charter has struck a retrans deal for renewal of Sinclair TV stations that includes the Fox RSNs. Charter declined to comment, but a recent Wolfe Research note declared, “CHTR renewing the Fox RSNs for a ‘slight increase’ is a nice little positive.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $9.6 billion deal to acquire 21 regional sports channels may be beloved by stockholders — but lenders are less enthused. Since winning the auction to acquire the 21 regional sports networks from Disney, Sinclair has had a tough time finding a lender to replace a $1.025 billion bridge loan it secured from JPMorgan, sources with direct knowledge of the situation say.
Major League Baseball won’t get a shot at controlling the nation’s regional sports TV networks, after all. MLB has resigned itself to becoming a minority investor — as Disney wraps up its auction of the 21 RSNs — giving up on a dream to become the operator of a nationwide chain of sports-focused TV channels.
The sale of the nearly two dozen of the Fox regional sports networksOpens a New Window. hampered by lowball bids, confusion over the ownership of digital rights and overly optimistic expectations by bankers on the final sales price may now be further delayed as billionaire businessman Arturo “Arte” Moreno, the owner of the Los Angeles Angels, has indicated that he would like to purchase as many as four of the RSNs.