Welcome to another day in the never-ending saga of reports on the Fox regional sports networks. The 22 networks were initially part of Disney’s deal to buy Fox assets, and part of Comcast’s counterbid, but Disney agreed to the Department of Justice’s condition of selling off the RSNs to gain approval for the rest of the deal. Since then, there have been plenty of discussions of bidders, from cable providers to teams to private equity to tech firms to station owners like Sinclair to agencies like Endeavor to Fox themselves.
Some of the latest developments have seen high-profile names added to bids, such as billionaire CEO Carolyn Rafaelian teaming up with Ice Cube and LL Cool J. And another bidder looks to be going targeting a high-profile teammate of their own, with Dylan Byers of NBC News reporting Thursday that private equity firm Apollo Global is exploring bringing LeBron James’ Uninterrupted media company in as “a strategic partner”:
Scoop: Apollo courts LeBron — Apollo Global, one of several private-equity firms considering a bid for Disney’s 22 regional sports networks, has held early talks with LeBron James’ media company, Uninterrupted, about bringing them on as a strategic partner, according to sources with knowledge of the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly.
… Several potential buyers have expressed interest, including Apollo, Blackstone Group, KKR, Providence, Silver Lake and Endeavor, and Lachlan Murdoch’s “New Fox,” which owns Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting.
Apollo’s talks with James’ multimedia platform have focused on a strategic partnership deal that could see James contributing and advising on content for the networks, the sources said. There has been no talk of an ownership stake for James’ company.
That makes some sense; having big names on board never seems to hurt, and James’ media company’s big enough and wide enough at this point that they add perhaps more to the table than your average celebrity connection. And in particular, they might be able to help with providing programming for the hours of the day not consumed with live games. Yes, the RSNs have some studio shows (often simulcasts of local radio, but some original ones focused on local teams), but a lot of their daytime programming is stuff they currently pick up thanks to their Fox affiliation, and that wouldn’t necessarily continue after a sale. And private equity firms in particular might be looking to cut costs, and maybe syndicating some existing programming from Uninterrupted could help there. Or maybe LeBron and Uninterrupted will help develop original programming for the channels, something they’re already doing at seemingly every other network (and even in theaters).
In any case, the RSN drama is far from over. As Meg James of The Los Angeles Times writes, the initial bids were submitted this week for investment bankers Allen & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to assess, and Disney “is expected to allow potential suitors to bid on individual channels or a cluster of channels.” So there are a ton of people in the mix, and there’s expected to be at least one further round of bidding, with the auction likely wrapping up early next year (after Disney finalizes its purchase of Fox assets).
There’s no particular indication this Apollo bid will win, even with LeBron. Still, his involvement is notable, and it adds yet another layer to this tangled web. We’ll see what stories come out on this next, but there are going to be plenty more until these networks finally find their new home or homes.