The neverending saga of the Fox RSNs took another twist on Friday, and that twist is not good news for Disney. John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reports that Fox is out of the running to buy back the RSNs (not that it was really ever in the running to begin with), joining Charter and Comcast as the massive media entities that won’t be purchasing the package of 22 RSNs.
This news first came in an SEC filing from Fox.
“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 U.S. Department of Justice,” the filing said.
Ourand also notes that Fox is declining to pursue the RSNs because they’re interested in high growth businesses and they view the RSNs as a low growth business, and that they’re “scared away” by the way Disney is going about the sale, in part because of the number of potential bidders that have seen the sales book.
A number of other, unconventional bidders remain in the running, including a variety of private equity firms, Sinclair, and Ice Cube. The total value of Sinclair’s bid was never announced, but it was for all 22 of the RSNs. In addition, Ourand stated that the Yankees seem more likely than not to buy back YES Network, which had previously been valued at roughly $4 billion, instead of letting it go to an owner other than Fox. Removing YES Network from the RSN package would likely be a huge blow for the total value of the networks, because it removes the one included RSN in the northeast and also takes the biggest market off the table.
So, what’s next? The second round of bidding is due at the end of January, and the RSNs need to be sold within 90 days of the closing of the 21st Century Fox sale to Disney, which still hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure everyone would love to have the RSN sale done and dusted by the start of the MLB season in late March, but if that’s not possible and the sale drags on into April, maybe we won’t get a full rebrand of all the networks until the All-Star Break (or even the fall prior to the start of the NBA and NHL seasons).
Whatever ends up happening, we’re seemingly in the final months of the RSNs being Fox-branded, and the changes once a new owner is found will likely be enormous and will take awhile to get used to.