The world of linear television has been in flux for years now, and with seemingly every network offering their own streaming service, that future is only getting murkier.
One key area affected: regional sports networks, which went from being a pivotal piece of the Fox cable empire to being essentially held in escrow throughout the Fox-Disney merger to finally being purchased by Sinclair and rebranded under a partnership with Bally Sports. (A process that took years.)
But as distribution deals remain a thorny issue and as Sinclair makes noise about simply moving the networks to their own over-the-top service, NBC Sports is also considering a sale of their own stable of networks. And according to Josh Kosman in the New York Post, Sinclair is very interested in adding the NBC networks to their own portfolio.
Via the Post:
Sinclair Broadcasting Group, already the nation’s dominant owner of regional sports networks, has made an offer to acquire NBCUniversal’s seven regional sports networks, The Post has learned.
If Sinclair succeeds in buying the RSNs, it would add dozens of popular National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball teams to its already vast collection of sports broadcast rights, including the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Capitals, Golden State Warriors, and San Francisco Giants.
Kosman is also quick to point out how early we are in the process, too:
The preliminary offer, for an amount that could not be immediately ascertained, was made as part of a June 28 deadline for first round bids, two sources familiar with the talks told The Post.
That means the offer could easily come to naught because Sinclair has not yet been privy to all of the financial details around NBC’s RSNs, which will only be provided to bidders that make it through to the auction’s next round.
Comcast declined comment. Sinclair did not return calls for comment.
NBC’s stance here makes sense, to a point. They’ve been making moves to get out of the cable business for a while, including announcing plans to shutter their (objectively successful) NBC Sports Network by the end of 2021. Peacock is clearly seen as the future at NBC. Sinclair, meanwhile, obviously saw the regional network model as a way into the sports broadcasting world, and the more networks they can add to their books the stronger their negotiating position is with various distributors and/or the easier it is to pitch potential subscribers on a standalone model.
Again, this is all very early, and as we saw with the Fox-Disney process moves like this can take a lot of time to come to fruition. But it’s always interesting to look at where companies are leaning.