Thursday, May 2, 2019

Report: Disney-Fox RSNs Bidding War Heats Up

Disney’s sale of the 21 Fox regional sports channels is heating up yet again — thanks to comedian-turned-media mogul Byron Allen jumping into the already crowded and contentious race, reports The NYPost.

Allen, 58, is reportedly joining forces with conservative TV broadcasting company Sinclair Broadcast Group to bid on the regional sports networks, or RSNs, which own the rights to broadcast professional baseball, hockey and basketball games from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

The channels are expected to fetch some $9 billion — and have already attracted offers from Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 pro basketball league Big3 in a bid being backed by stars such as L Cool J, “Magic” Johnson, Serena Williams, as well as from a group that includes Atlanta Braves owner Liberty Media.

Tech giant Amazon was even rumored to be lurking about in a deal that would have backed Sinclair — as were billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

Byron Allen
As it stands, Allen — owner of The Weather Channel and Entertainment Studios, the distributor of “Chappaquiddick” — is Sinclair’s only partner, sources told The Post.

In March 2018, Allen acquired The Weather Channel for an estimated $300 million and announced plans to build an even larger media company through acquisitions.

Allen’s entry into the bidding war could prove a thorn in the side of rival bidder Liberty Media — thanks to a $10 billion lawsuit filed against cable giant Charter Communications accusing it of racial discrimination for refusing to carry content from Entertainment Studios, one of few media companies wholly owned by an African-American.

The 2016 Los Angeles federal suit claims Charter CEO Tom Rutledge once called Allen “boy” at an industry event and said “he needed to change his behavior.”

Charter’s largest shareholder is John Malone’s Liberty Media, which is also bidding for the RSNs.

Charter called the lawsuit “a desperate tactic” and said “the allegations in it are entirely false. Race plays no role whatsoever in our programming decisions. We will defend ourselves while continuing our work to promote diversity and inclusion.”

But Big3 referenced the lawsuit — and the alleged Rutledge insult — in its own fight with Charter over the RSNs. Big3 has claimed that Charter has been trying “to pollute the bidding process” by threatening to drop the RSNs from its cable networks, including Spectrum in New York City, if they come under new ownership.

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