Sinclair to pay Disney $10.6 bn for Fox regional sports networks

Washington (AFP) –


Sinclair Broadcast Group said Friday it agreed to buy 21 regional sports television networks from Walt Disney Co. in a deal worth $10.6 billion.

The regional sports networks were part the assets of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox sold to Disney in a blockbuster $71 billion deal completed earlier this year.

Disney was required to sell off the sports broadcasters under an agreement with US antitrust regulators.

The sports operations include local rights to 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams, and 12 National Hockey League teams. It had some $3.8 billion in revenue and 74 million subscribers in 2018.

Sinclair will merge the operations with its existing sports businesses including the Marquee Sports Network and Tennis Channel.

"This is a very exciting transaction for Sinclair to be able to acquire highly complementary assets," said Chris Ripley, Sinclair's president and chief executive.

"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."

The Fox deal ramped up Disney's operations in film and television and cemented its role as the leading Hollywood studio. It left Murdoch with a slimmed-down "new Fox" that includes the US broadcast network and Fox News Channel.

The largest US local television operator, Sinclair owns or providers services to some 191 stations.