Sinclair to purchase 21 regional sports networks from Disney

Sinclair Broadcast Group will purchase 21 regional sports networks from the Walt Disney Company for $9.6 billion, the two companies announced Friday.

The deal values the networks at $10.6 billion, after adjusting for minority equity interests.

The move bolsters Sinclair, which operates one of the largest networks of local television stations in the country. Sinclair has drawn criticism for pushing a conservative political worldview in its newscasts and programming decisions.

Sinclair previously tried to acquire Tribune Media, but the deal was ultimately called off after it was scrutinized by regulators. Tribune then sued Sinclair, contending the company was “unnecessarily aggressive” during negotiations with the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

Disney had to sell the regional sports networks under an agreement it struck with the Department of Justice that allowed the media conglomerate to proceed with its purchase of 21st Century Fox.

If approved by the Department of Justice, the deal will make Sinclair the owner of the largest collection of regional sports networks in the marketplace, the press release said.

The deal would give Sinclair the exclusive rights to 42 professional teams spanning Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.

The networks carry professional and non-professional sports for regional markets across the country, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and the Carolinas. Under the deal, Sinclair will also acquire Fox College Sports.

Sinclair president and chief executive Chris Ripley said in a statement that it was a “very exciting transaction” for the company.

“While consumer viewing habits have shifted, the tradition of watching live sports and news remains ingrained in our culture,” Ripley said. “As one of the largest local news producers in the country and an experienced producer of sports content, we are ideally positioned to transfer our skills to deliver and expand our focus on greater premium sports programming.”

The deal does not include the YES Network, which broadcasts Yankees games for the New York City metro region. Disney is also required to sell that network.

Sinclair and Disney said in the press release that in 2018 the 21 regional sports networks generated $3.8 billion in revenue and had 74 million subscribers.