Disney has finalized its sale of the YES Network, which will be repurchased by Yankee Global Enterprises, the parent company of the New York Yankees.
The deal is for the remaining 80% stake that the Yankees didn’t already own, and is valued at $3.47 billion. Amazon is a partner in the transaction, along with Sinclair Broadcast Group. On Aug. 23, Sinclair closed a separate deal with Disney for the remaining 21 Fox regional sports networks that Disney was required to sell as part of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets.
The Yankees will be the majority shareholder with a 26% stake, while Sinclair will own 20%. Amazon has a 15% stake with the option to increase that in the coming years. Additional equity investments were provided by RedBird Capital, funds managed by Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities business, and Mubadala Capital.
With the transaction, Disney has now sold off all 22 Fox regional sports networks it was required to divest as part of its approval from the Justice Department to rubber stamp its Fox deal. The YES Network is the TV home of the Yankees and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and was considered the crown jewel of the Fox RSNs that Disney acquired.
Back in 2012, Yankee Global Enterprises sold a 49% stake to News Corp — before it spun off 21st Century Fox — who then upped their stake to 80% in 2014.
“This transaction brings the YES Network and all of its popular programming even closer to the organization that inspired its very development,” said Hal Steinbrenner, CEO, Yankee Global Enterprises. “Along with our partners, we look forward to greatly expanding the way that sports content is delivered and consumed by fans everywhere.”
The Yankees, Sinclair and Amazon will collectively work to broaden the distribution of the New York/New Jersey-area channel. Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations (170) in the country, and also owns the Tennis Channel and is launching a regional sports network with the Chicago Cubs. Jon Litner has signed a new contract to remain in his existing role as President of the YES Network.
New York Yankees president Randy Levine was light on the specifics of how the three companies will work together, most notably Amazon, when it comes to distribution. In March, multiple outlets including the AP and New York Times reported that Amazon would get some kind digital rights as part of the deal.
We’ll be developing a whole bunch of programs that are in the works as we speak. Amazon has got great expertise in the technological world and the digital world,” Levine said during a conference call with the media. “The specifics will come in the future as we start to roll out new programs.” The digital rights for the YES Network are currently run through Fox Sports.
Amazon has been seeking to become more of a player in sports rights. The retail giant is heading into its third season as the streaming partner for the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” which airs on Fox.