The New York Yankees, owners of 20% of regional sports network YES, are in talks with Amazon and Sinclair Broadcast Group about a bid for the remaining 80% of it, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Disney is reviewing bids for the 22 RSNs owned by 21st Century Fox. As it moves toward the closing of its $71.3 billion acquisition of most of Fox, Disney has agreed with regulators to sell off the regional networks so as to avoid overlaps with ESPN. The worth of the entire portfolio has been estimated at $20 billion, but YES has an outsized share of that, with the current bidding valuing it at between $5 billion and $6 billion.
Talks are at an early stage, the Journal reported, and the Yankees have also approached cable distributor Altice USA about joining the effort. The team has priority with regard to the fate of the remaining 80% of the network, which is considered beachfront property given the size of the New York market and the national profile of the Yankees.
Reps from Amazon, Sinclair and the Yankees did not immediately respond to Deadline’s requests for comment.
Amazon has pushed deeper into the live sports realm in recent years, acquiring streaming rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football and the U.S. Open tennis tournament in the UK. A regional sports network in some ways is the polar opposite of its core business, but sources have consistently told Deadline that it could thrive as a streaming partner with a more traditional network operator, as is the case with NFL games. NFL officials and team owners were satisfied enough with Amazon’s initial performance in 2017 that they re-upped with the tech giant for two more years, 2018 and 2019.
The Yankees have long worked with private equity firms on the financial strategy for YES, which launched in 2002 and ushered in an era of sports teams seeking more control of their own TV rights. Major P.E. firm Blackstone is also working with Sinclair on a bid for the larger portfolio, and executives at the leading local TV station owner have repeatedly indicated their keen interest in the RSNs.
Fox gained majority ownership in YES earlier this decade. The Fox entity that will remain after the Disney transaction is among the bidders for the larger portfolio of RSNs.