When Disney earned the right to purchase 21st Century Fox’s movie and television assets at a cost of $71.3 billion, it came with a caveat from the Department of Justice. Disney would have to divest the 22 regional sports networks (RSNs) that came as part of the deal in order to avoid antitrust implications.
The collection of RSNs, which includes the YES Network, Fox Sports West, and Fox Sports Florida, just to name a few, could be divvied up any number of ways, leading to a lot of speculation over who will buy them, whether or not they’ll be a package deal, or if they’ll be sold off piecemeal. Our own Andrew Bucholtz recently speculated that some of the networks could wind up being owned by the teams involved (for example, the Yankees may want to buy back YES, for which they reportedly have a buyback option they’re considering).
There’s also speculation that Comcast, who is already the second-largest RSN owner behind Fox, will want to fill their coffers with more, especially after getting outbid by Disney for the overall deal. Another possibility is that Fox might actually try to buy back the RSNs. And don’t forget about potential buyers such as agencies like CAA, tech firms like YouTube and Amazon, private equity companies, and media companies like Sinclair.
It looks like a new group is throwing their name in the hat as well. A duo you might not have seen coming. Ice Cube and LL Cool J.
Last week, Go Local reported that billionaire CEO Carolyn Rafaelian said she was partnering with rapper, actor, and basketball league impresario Ice Cube in a bid on the regional network package. Rafaelian’s company Alex and Ani was a partner in the BIG3 Basketball League, designing their championship rings. That all sounded intriguing enough, but then TMZ Sports reported that LL Cool J had joined the investment group as they look to stockpile credentials, financing, and connections in the quest to purchase some or all of the networks. TMZ also noted that “the group is also in talks with other sports and cultural icons who are interested in participating in the bid.”
The first round of bids are due on November 8th, so if they’re going to attract more partners, they better do it quick.
However the bidding for the 22 sports networks goes, it won’t go cheap. Disney is said to expect a deal involving all 22 networks to be in the $15 t0 $25 billion range. The crown jewel of the stations, YES, is expected to fetch between $5 and $6 billion just on its own.