Following in the footsteps of their acquisitions of local television rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their hefty investment in the YES Network worth billions, News Corp. and Fox are continuing their spending spree on baseball rights. Next for News Corp. and Fox is SportsTime Ohio, the Cleveland Indians network, for the fee of $230 million according to Reuters…
"News Corp is expected to announce as early as this week that it will buy SportsTime Ohio, a TV channel owned by the Cleveland Indians baseball team, for around $230 million, sources told Reuters, marking its second acquisition of a regional sports channel since late last month.
The deal would give News Corp's Fox Sports unit the rights to broadcast the Major League Baseball team's games, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations. That would add to the games that its Fox Sports Ohio channel carries from basketball's Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and others.
The move underscores a push by media companies to target regional sports channels as broadcast rights for many major sporting events are already sewn up for years. Such channels show games from local colleges and professional teams that heavyweight ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co, or other national channels do not carry."
SBJ reports Fox has been knocking on the door of the Nationals and Orioles as well in search of even more baseball rights. All of these regional moves combined with Fox Sports One is a titanic push for sports rights across all platforms. It's also a significant push back in a regional sports network market that has seen Comcast gobble up former FSN's in recent years.
As for the future of STO and the local media scene in Ohio, I can't imagine STO operating as is under new ownership. The channel has the Indians and Ohio High School playoffs (don't underestimate the allure of those, especially in football), but not much else that would really draw in viewers. At the very least, there would be major changes in what kind of programming options would exist. Fox Sports Net already has the Cavaliers, Reds, Blue Jackets, and Crew, so this would give them total control over the pro sports scene. Is there enough programming for a second Fox Sports Channel in Ohio, would they split along North/South lines, or would STO emerge somewhat in tact under the Fox umbrella? Those questions remain to be answered, but it'll be an interesting bellweather for how these shifts on the regional sports scene continue to develop outside the huge markets.