Fox Sports has acquired SportsTime Ohio, a Cleveland-based regional sports network that has broadcast Cleveland Indians’ games for the last seven seasons.
A separate but related deal also gives Fox the long-term local rights to Indians’ games. The Indians, founded in 1901, are one of the charter franchises of the American League, the younger of baseball’s two leagues.
Fox carried Indians’ games on Fox Sports Ohio prior to 2006, when Indians owner Larry Dolan founded SportsTime Ohio and brought the rights in-house.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but an individual with knowledge of the deals said the network cost more than $235 million and the rights will cost Fox north of $40 million a year for between 10 and 15 years.
Fox Sports Ohio already owns the rights to most of Ohio’s signature sports teams, including the other professional baseball team (Cincinnati Reds), the lone NBA team (Cleveland Cavaliers), the lone NHL team (Columbus Blue Jackets), the lone MLS team (Columbus Crew) and two of the most popular collegiate sports programs — Xavier and University of Cincinnati.
The regional sports network reaches more than 5 million homes in Ohio, also serving select audiences in surrounding states such as Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“The acquisition of SportsTime Ohio solidifies our business in Ohio, and FOX Sports Media Group’s new long-term agreement with the Indians reunites the team with the FOX Sports family,” Jeff Krolik, executive vice president of FOX Sports Networks, said in a statement. “We look forward to once again showcasing the Indians to their fans, as well as working with the Indians ownership to continue to enhance the value of this iconic franchise."
Fox has long been the leader in regional sports programming, operating 20 regional sports networks across the nation. It holds the rights to more than half of the teams in professional baseball, hockey and basketball.
However, the past decade has also seen a rise in team-owned networks, such as the New York Mets’ SNY and the New York Yankees’ YES. Fox recently purchased 49 percent of YES.
Fox still has one major deal pending — the rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fox holds the rights for the next year and is currently negotiating a new long-term deal.