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Sinclair Broadcast acquires stake in Yankees sports network

Sinclair Broadcast Group increased its growing presence in sports programming by acquiring a 20% stake in a New York Yankees baseball network, the Hunt Valley TV station owner said Thursday.

Sinclair and other investors — including Yankee Global Enterprises, Amazon and financial partners — acquired The Walt Disney Co.'s 80% share of the Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network, the YES Network. The remaining 20% was owned already by the team.

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"We are excited about partnering with such a renowned franchise as the New York Yankees,” Chris Ripley, Sinclair’s president and CEO, said in an announcement.

The broadcaster had finalized a $10.6 billion deal last week in which it joined with the owner of The Weather Channel to buy 21 regional sports networks and Fox College Sports from Disney. That deal excluded the YES network. Disney had acquired the regional sports networks in its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment business and was required to spin off the sports portfolio to secure federal antitrust approval.

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Ripley said the YES purchase boosts Sinclair’s ownership of regional sports networks, part of a strategy to attract more viewers with the help of streaming services and the growth of legalized sports betting. Thanks to loyal fan bases, sports viewership is seen as outperforming other TV genres at a time when consumers are watching less live TV and instead streaming programs over the Internet.

YES, launched in 2002, bills itself as the country’s most-watched regional sports network. It broadcasts games, programs and other content for the Yankees, the Brooklyn Nets, Major League Soccer’s New York City FC and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Sinclair will be in charge of distributing the channel through both cable and digital streaming.

With YES and Marquee Sports Network, a Chicago-based channel Sinclair is launching with the Chicago Cubs, the broadcaster will have ownership in 23 sports network brands.

Sinclair said it funded YES through its investment in Diamond Sports Group, the wholly owned subsidiary that bought the 21 networks and was formed with Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios, owner of The Weather Channel.

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The Yankees now own 26%, Amazon owns 15% and the other investors, including RedBird Capital, Mubadala Capital and funds managed by Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities business, own 39%.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Sinclair said its stake in the $3.47 billion enterprise is valued at about $346 million.

YES televises 128 regular season Yankees games each season as well as pre-game and post-game shows, the Yankees Magazine weekly show of player profiles, interviews and features and Yankeeography, a biography series.

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