Sinclair Broadcasting will serve up $350 million for the Tennis Channel, a niche pay TV service that currently reaches 30 million homes — but is about to rise to 50 million with some recent carriage deals.
Tennis’ CEO Ken Solomon, an industry veteran, will continue to be involved in the new structure, though the announcement doesn’t describe his role.
“Tennis Channel is an established property with high-quality content and advertisers, and is vastly under-compensated and under-distributed relative to the value it brings to its viewers,” Sinclair CEO David Smith says. “It was the only independently owned major sports network left, and we knew we could unlock value through a tuck-in acquisition.”
His company also considers the deal a bargain: It picks up more than $200 million of net operating losses which Sinclair can use to reduce its future taxes. Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber adds that his company will “leverage our broadcast platform to promote Tennis Channel, which we anticipate will result in increased viewership, further adding to the channel’s value in attracting and retaining subscribers.”
All told, Sinclair figures the deal gives Tennis a current value of about $65 million.
Tennis could use Sinclair’s help. Independent pay TV channels are vulnerable as cable and satellite companies — grappling with subscriber cord cutting and shaving — look for ways to cut their programming costs.
Tennis Channel already faced off against Comcast. The channel charged that the No. 1 cable operator discriminated by putting it on an extra-fee sports tier, which it didn’t do for two similar sports channels that it owns: Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network. The FCC agreed with Tennis Channel in 2012. But an Appeals Court overruled the regulators, saying that the evidence could also show that Comcast made a simple financial judgment that few subscribers wanted to watch tennis.
“Sinclair’s unique size and position in the media ecosystem will facilitate significant distribution growth towards parity with our competitive set and expand our brand’s assets and unique value as the go-to destination for all things tennis in the U.S. and beyond,” Solomon says. “The larger platform will immediately help develop incremental advertising and sponsorship business and puts us in a great position to enhance our already comprehensive rights portfolio domestically as well as develop the brand internationally.”
Aryeh Bourkoff’s Liontree Advisors and Evolution Media Capital helped Tennis Channel with the transaction.