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Amazon Teaming With Yankees On YES Purchase

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YES Network

Amazon’s initial bid for those 22 regional sports networks Disney acquired in its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets may not have been all it was initially reported to be. According to a report from Fox Business Channel, the company did not enter a bid on a package that includes all 22 networks Disney is being forced by the Justice Department to divest. Instead, Amazon is working with the New York Yankees to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network.

Charles Gasparino and Lydia Moynihan of FBC cite “people directly involved with the process” that say that what Amazon is interested in is being able to stream Yankees games through its Prime Video subscription service. It doesn’t mean that Amazon won’t put in a bid on the other 21 networks. It just hasn’t done that yet.

The partnership of the Yankees and Amazon could allow Amazon to stream Yankees games on its Amazon Prime subscription service, but initial press reports cited Amazon as a first-round bidder on all the RSNs as well as YES — signifying a major new corporate strategy for the online retail giant as it seeks to develop more sports programming (Amazon already streams Thursday Night Football).

But people with direct knowledge of the process say Amazon is only weighing a larger bid for the other RSNs that may come as the second round progresses while it is actively negotiating with the Yankees. One reason that Amazon may scale back its ambitions is that its CEO Jeff Bezos may want proceed cautiously in a business that he’s relatively new at, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 

Another wrinkle reported by Gasparino and Moynihan is the confusion over what purchasing the networks means for the streaming rights of the teams involved. Apparently Major League Baseball Commissioner felt the need to make it clear that a winning bid didn’t mean controlling teams’ digital futures.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred then took the unusual step of inserting himself in the multi-billion-dollar auction process, telling bankers in charge that they need to alert potential buyers that any purchase of these entities doesn’t include digital rights to baseball games that remain the property of the leagues and its teams — a move that could lower the price of the networks as the auction process proceeds, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

How some of the bidders came to believe they would own, rather than lease from the league and the teams those rights and baseball’s response has not been reported. The reason for the confusion is unclear. Bankers didn’t “drill down” on the exact nature of the digital rights in conversations with potential buyers in the first round of the bidding process but planned to do so later, said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.

What effect both of these developments mean to the second round of bidding remains to be seen. Could Manfred’s statement drive down the price? Could the price skyrocket if and when Amazon does decide to throw its hat in the ring on the other 21 networks? Were the current bidders aware that their bids were for a package that wouldn’t include the YES Network?

There are six bidders so far, and it is possible for other entities like Fox or Major League Baseball to get involved in the next round of bidding. It looks like we won’t get answers to any of those questions until then.

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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