It looks like the New York Yankees want the fox out of the hen house.
The New York Yankees are considering taking back control of the YES Network, the organization created in 2001 as a channel centered around the baseball team and the home of most televised Yankee game broadcasts. The 80 percent stake owned by Twenty-First Century Fox is part of the multibillion-dollar basket of assets that Fox is selling in what could now become a bidding war between Disney and Comcast following a recent court precedent.
In 2014, Fox’s ownership jumped from 49 percent to 80 percent of YES, a regional sports network that the New York Post said is among the largest and most successful of its kind in the country. Fox initially purchased the 49 percent stake in 2012 at a valuation of about $3.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.
“It would be worth $4 billion or more by now, based on the success of the Yankees and the fact that it’s in the nation’s number one market,” industry consultant Lee Berke said to Bloomberg in an interview. “It’s not dropping in value,” he said, adding that “it’s only increasing.”
Berke said the price of YES could increase further if the bidding war between Comcast and Disney escalates. Both Comcast and Disney have said they’d be willing to divest Fox’s regional sports networks if it helps them win government approval for a Fox deal.
After Judge Richard Leon allowed AT&T and Time Warner to move ahead with a merger that the Justice Department tried stopping, Comcast Corp. almost immediately made a $65 billion bid for Fox’s entertainment assets last Wednesday, which include YES and other regional sports networks. The offer came after Walt Disney Co.’s $52.4 billion bid for the same assets.
Yankees fans don’t have to worry about much. The New York Post explains that “while YES is valued in the billions, if a transaction is completed with the Yankees, it is not expected to have a big impact on a deal with either Disney or Comcast for many of Fox’s top assets.” Only the overall stock price would see some changes.
The sports assets that would be combined in either a Disney-Fox or Comcast-Fox deal will get heavy scrutiny, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Fox’s parent company News Corp. Fox will sell other regional sports networks as well, but the YES Network is what the Wall Street Journal considers Fox’s marquee sports channel. Fox’s regional sports networks have been valued at $23 billion by industry analysts.
Comcast’s nine regional sports networks carry local teams in major markets such as Philadelphia and Chicago. Its SNY, the home of the New York Mets, competes for advertisers with Fox’s YES.
Started in 2002 by the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, YES is the most-watched regional sports network in the U.S. despite battles with cable providers, Bloomberg reported.
Alice McGillion, a spokeswoman for the Yankees, declined to comment to Bloomberg. Fox also declined to comment.
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