Disney and Sinclair 'agree deal for sale of RSNs'
Walt Disney, the US entertainment giant, is reported to have reached an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest television station owner in the country, under which the latter will acquire the Fox Regional Sports Networks.
A "handshake" deal has been reached, and the two groups are working on the final terms, with Sinclair to pay up to $10 billion for the channels if no other buyer emerges, according to the Fox Business network.
Disney was obliged to sell the RSNs under the terms of its $71-billion takeover of multiple assets of 21st Century Fox.
It was originally estimated that the 22 RSNs could be worth as much as $22 billion, but the YES Network was bought by MLB's New York Yankees in a separate deal, and the bids for the remainder have been lower than anticipated.
Sinclair, a telecoms conglomerate, is headquartered in Maryland and owns or operates a total of 193 TV stations across USA. It also owns several radio stations, and a professional wrestling promotion. It is reported that Blackstone Group, a private equity and financial services firm, will be a minority partner in acquiring the RSNs.
Disney was given 90 days after the completion of the acquisition of the Fox assets this March to sell the RSNs, with US regulators concerned that it would exercise too much control over sport in the country if it controlled them as well as dedicated sports network ESPN.
The Yankees acquired YES Network for $3.5 billion in a deal that was backed by Sinclair and Blackstone, as well as by Amazon, a minority owner of the network.
Other bidders reported to be in the running in the third and final round of bids for the remaining 21 networks included Liberty Media, the owner of Formula 1, MLB, and BIG3, a nascent basketball league created by hip-hop impresario Ice Cube.
Several potential major suitors, including Discovery, Comcast and Fox itself, withdrew from contention earlier in the process.
Disney’s takeover of the Fox assets was approved by the US Department of Justice last June, but only on condition that the RSNs were sold off