Since February’s news that Warner Bros. Discovery Sports was looking to get out of the regional sports network business, there have been a lot of developments. WBD Sports fully owns AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, AT&T SportsNet Southwest, and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, and has a 29 percent stake in Root Sports Northwest, but as early as that February report, they were looking to transfer ownership to teams.
In April, though, WBD struck a deal to keep those RSNs running through the MLB season, making this a smoother transition than some of the midseason shifts we’ve seen in the Bally Sports/Diamond Sports bankruptcy. And now, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal has reported that the WBD RSNs futures appear clear. As per Ourand, they’ve struck a deal to turn the Pittsburgh one over to Penguins’ owner Fenway Sports Group, they’re close to a deal to turn the Southwest one over to the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets (although that agreement is not yet finalized), they look set to keep their minority stake in Root Sports Northwest, and they appear to be planning on just closing down AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.
When the current baseball season ends, WBD Sports is set to sell its RSNs in Pittsburgh and Houston to some of the teams in those markets and all signs point to the shuttering of its Denver-based channel, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.
Soon after the Oct. 1 conclusion of the MLB season, WBD Sports’ only RSN asset will be a 29% stake in the Seattle-based Root Sports Northwest. The Seattle Mariners have been the majority owner of that RSN since 2013.
WBD Sports already has agreed to a deal to allow Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Pittsburgh Penguins, to take over AT&T SportNet Pittsburgh. Specific financial details about the deal are not known, but it is expected to close within the next several weeks.
…A deal for the Houston RSN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest, will take a little longer. WBD Sports is still negotiating to have the Astros and Rockets take over that network. Several sources describe the two sides as close to a deal and expect one to be finalized before the start of the NBA season.
As Ourand goes on to note, it will be interesting to watch what happens to the rights for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies. He writes that the Pirates could strike a deal to stay on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh with Fenway Sports Group (which, in addition to the Pirates, owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC, and more, and also has experience in the RSN game with their 80 percent ownership of NESN), but also could follow the teams (the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks so far) who have turned their broadcasts over to MLB and its new local media department.
Similarly, the Rockies could strike a deal with Altitude (owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Mammoth and broadcasts their games there, and owns the Los Angeles Rams, Arsenal and other teams as well). And, as Ourand writes, there’s some incentive there for Altitude, as the added Rockies’ inventory might help them overcome their long-running carriage dispute with Comcast. But they could also turn their games over to MLB. We’ll see what happens in that situation. And we’ll also see if this proposed AT&T SportsNet Southwest deal goes through.