Fox rules itself out of deal for Disney's regional sports networks
Fox, the new name of Rupert Murdoch’s streamlined media empire, today ruled itself out of bidding to acquire the 22 US regional sports television networks being sold by rival Walt Disney.
A deal with Fox would effectively have represented a buyback, given that the channels, which show games played by 44 professional teams across MLB, the NBA and the NHL, formed part of last year's deal in which Disney agreed to acquire Fox’s TV production studios, movie studios and several of its general entertainment cable networks for $71.3 billion.
In June, the US Department of Justice gave approval for the Disney deal, on the condition that it sold off Fox’s regional sports networks.
Fox was considered one of the leading contenders for the networks, but said in a US Securities and Exchange Commission 8K filing today: "Fox confirms that it does not intend to bid for any of the Fox regional sports networks that Disney [or any entity operating on its behalf] may sell as required by the consent decree with the US Department of Justice."
The battle for the regional sports networks is expected to be hotly-contested, and late last month Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred confirmed its interest, saying: "You know, in 12 markets baseball on the regional sports network is the number one programming throughout the summer. In 24 of 25 markets that we operate in, we’re the number one programming on cable. So these regional sport networks are really valuable, valuable assets and we think that the combination of that traditional mode of delivery and the digital rights that we control is an opportunity for the game."
Other potential bidders for the networks, which have a collective price tag of about $20 billion, are reported to include: Amazon, the online retail giant; TEGNA, the broadcast, digital media and marketing services company; and Sinclair Broadcasting, the telecoms conglomerate.