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Sinclair Broadcast Group completes deal for regional sports networks

Sinclair Broadcast Group completes deal for regional sports networks
Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters are seen in Hunt Valley, MD. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Hunt Valley-based television broadcaster, completed its $10.6 billion deal to acquire 21 regional sports networks and Fox College Sports from Disney, the companies announced Friday.

The deal, announced in May, is expected to transform Sinclair, more than doubling its revenue and making the nation’s largest owner of television stations more of a sports broadcaster.

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Disney needed to sell the sports networks to secure federal approval of its $71 billion deal to acquire 21st Century Fox. Since Disney already owned ESPN, regulators had antitrust concerns. That sparked a bidding war for the networks won by Sinclair.

The networks own exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams, including 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams and 12 National Hockey League teams.

“We are very excited about the transformational aspects the [regional sports networks] acquisition will have on Sinclair and are eager to bring those opportunities to life," Sinclair President and CEO Chris Ripley said in a statement.

Sinclair partnered with the owner of The Weather Channel, which is taking a minority stake, on the deal. Adjusting for minority interests, Sinclair said the aggregate purchase price was $9.6 billion.

Sinclair has seen success with sports programming in recent years. It also owns professional wrestling’s Ring of Honor and acquired the Tennis Channel in 2016. The broadcaster said in January that it will launch a regional sports network with the Chicago Cubs. Sinclair also owns Stadium, a joint venture focused on college sports and professional highlights, and offers high school sports programming.

The deal also marks a turnabout for Sinclair, which lost a bid in 2018 to buy Tribune Media and extend its broadcast empire when federal regulators questioned whether that deal was in the public interest.

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