Amazon has reportedly jumped in with a bid for 21st Century Fox’s 22 regional sports networks that Disney is selling off as part of its $71.3 billion Fox acquisition.
According to CNBC’s David Faber, Amazon is bidding on all of the networks, which include distribution deals with major sports leagues including MLB, NHL and the NBA.
Amazon is facing competition from Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co., The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA, which have all placed first-round bids for the entire network package. Blackstone has also reportedly teamed with the New York Yankees in a bid to buy back YES Network.
Fox was rumored to be interested in buying back the networks, but neither it nor NBC Sports, which already owns a significant number of regional sports networks, placed bids in the first round. According to CNBC, a second round of bids could take place before the end of the year.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Amazon and YouTube were both interested in the networks.
In June, Barclays analyst Kannan Venkateshwar said Disney’s agreement to sell off the RSNs could generate around $19 billion to $20 billion in value (assuming a 10x EBITDA multiple off approximately $2 billion EBITDA).
For Amazon, purchasing the RSNs and the sports rights that come with them would make sense against the backdrop of the company’s efforts to secure live sports rights for its platform. Earlier this year, Amazon and the NFL signed a new two-year streaming rights deal for Thursday Night Football. In Britain, Amazon signed a three-year deal for Premier League soccer.
For Disney, the clock is ticking on finding a buyer for the RSNs, which the company has to sell as part of conditions placed on its Fox acquisition by the Justice Department. The DOJ is giving Disney a minimum of 90 days (with the possibility of extending the deadline by another 90 days) after closing the Fox deal to secure a sale of the RSNs.
In June, Disney said it could take up to 12 months to close the Fox deal, but during the company's most recent earnings call it said it is "increasingly optimistic it will be meaningfully earlier than that."