Amazon has joined the bidding for the 22 regional sports networks currently owned by 21st Century Fox that regulators are requiring Disney to sell off as part of its pending Fox acquisition, CNBC has reported.
The digital giant, which already has a foothold in sports via NFL Thursday Night Football rights as well as soccer and tennis, is among a cluster of media companies and private equity firms in the running. Citing unidentified sources, CNBC said first-round bidders for the full portfolio include P.E. firms Apollo Global Management, KKR and Blackstone Group as well as local TV station groups Sinclair and Tegna.
The value of the RSN portfolio has been estimated at $20 billion, but no dollar figures have been reported in connection with the bids. CNBC said Fox has not submitted a bid in the first round, but could enter the second-round bidding, which will get under way after Thanksgiving and proceed until the end of the year. At an appearance this month at the New York Times Dealbook conference, Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch said the company “will be inquisitive” as to the RSNs.
The New York Yankees have the right to make their own buyback offer for the YES Network, which many analysts expect them to exercise, raising the possibility that the networks could be sold off piecemeal. But Disney’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice affords the media giant minimal time to divest of the assets, which it is barred from keeping due to its vast ESPN sports holdings. Given the larger priority to close the $71.3 billion Fox transaction, Disney may seek to move the portfolio in one piece.
Disney and Amazon did not immediately respond to Deadline’s requests for comment.
While linear cable networks are challenged in general, the RSNs are considered beachfront property in media given the ongoing demand for live sports. Opinions have differed as to digital companies’ appetites for such traditional businesses, but with Amazon ramping up its advertising efforts, the networks offer platforms that would be difficult to replicate from scratch.
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