As Disney and 21st Century Fox get closer to handshakes on a deal that would give the Mouse increased entertainment and sports assets, ESPN could expand its portfolio internationally and here in the United States. While we knew of some of the details, the latest one dealt with ESPN taking over the Fox Sports Net affiliates. Now this would be a huge development.

Consider that for years, Fox Sports had felt that its local FSN affiliates were huge assets. More recently, however, that has changed. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand notes that Fox patriarch Rupert Murdoch has soured on the FSNs due to rising sports rights for local teams.

In addition, some of the local teams now have stakes in the FSNs and that has reduced the revenue Fox can make off certain affiliates.

There was a point where ESPN was hoping to get into the RSN game. Back in 1997, ESPN had plans to launch ESPN West with the then-Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Mighty Ducks as the anchors. Fox sued to stop that and won in court, so the ESPN RSN never got off the ground.

But if Disney and Fox agree on a deal, ESPN would finally get a local presence. And it’s not just a small presence, it would be 20 channels in markets like Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, San Diego and others.

And there would be control of local rights for MLB, NBA, and NHL, plus agreements with various Big 12 schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others.

Over the last few years, Fox was aggressive in gaining streaming rights for its local teams and that will definitely carry over if ESPN takes over the FSNs. And while the FSNs have been on Fox Sports Go, one would think that those channels would move to WatchESPN or the new ESPN streaming service.

The Fox RSNs would likely rebrand to ESPN just as the Comcast SportsNets rebranded to NBC earlier this year. Should this Disney/Fox deal happen, ESPN’s position in sports media will get stronger and any narrative that it’s dying will go by the wayside.

Consider other potential scenarios if ESPN were to take over the Fox Sports Net channels. For SportsCenter and other studio shows like NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, The Jump, Outside the Lines, College GameDay, College Football Live, etc., ESPN could tap its local RSNs for game day reports and scene setters. ESPN has been using print reporters and writers for their setups. If ESPN had a network of RSNs, it could use the local reporters and announcers for live shots.

To fill programming on the RSNs, ESPN could use their local ESPN Radio shows for morning and afternoon drive slots. Plus, the ESPN RSNs could be utilized for shoulder programming especially if a local pro team reaches the postseason. Also imagine a local College GameDay edition in SEC country or the West Coast. What about a local edition of Baseball Tonight or even SportsCenter?

There are all types of possibilities if Disney is able to close the deal with Fox. And rest assured that ESPN has thought of all this and more before meeting with Fox.

The next seven days will be interesting to watch and if the Disney-Fox deal falls through, just know that Comcast is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • PAI

    So when ESPN has a carriage dispute with a particular provider, everyone will lose their RSN as well. Sounds good.

  • MrBeepo

    Everything ESPN/Disney touches turns to crap.

    • Karl

      Star Wars and Marvel would disagree.

  • LA Superfan

    Ken some of you assumptions are off base. Most of the Fox RSN’s are short on “assets” to leverage like reporters and local crews. The Fox RSN’s produce games and not much else.

    • Jordan Ali

      Why would FOX sports give away they’re regional sports networks to ESPN? How is that going to benefit FOX sports??????

      • Karl

        Fox wouldn’t be giving them away, they’d be selling them. Asset valuations in general right now are very hot, Murdoch is normally proven to be pretty sharp and cashing out at the top is tough to argue with.

  • YouAreWrongAndDumb

    Remember when monopolies were illegal and the government used to take action against them?

    • Deon Hamner

      Good luck in Today’s world..

    • yes. the FTC stops healthcare mergers all the time.

  • David Heller

    A Disney purchase of the RSNs would actually bring new life to ESPN, imagine SportsCenter that’s tailor made for the Oklahoma audience (Sooners, OSU Cowboys, Thunder) and a localized version of College GameDay for OU and OSU.

    I’m all for it

    • Dale Moog

      It could work or it could be crap We should see

    • Jordan Ali

      Why would Fox sports give away they’re regional sports network to ESPN? How is that going to benefit FOX sports?

  • MrBull

    If espn does get the RSN, expect more layoffs….Disney and espn will screw up the eventual use of those rsn…

  • BadgerBacker

    Next on FSN Wisconsin……. “Coverage of the Brewers will not be shown tonight so we can bring you the Red Sox and Yankees”

  • Dale Moog

    I would love to see Comcast buy the RSN”s then they would control all but seven major RSN’s the AT&T’s Root, NESN and the two spectrums in LA

  • TL

    They continue with their liberal agenda and will ruin the RSN’s also.