Sinclair places bid for Comcast’s regional sports networks

The coverage map of Sinclair’s regional sports channels Bally Sports. (Image courtesy Sinclair Broadcast Group, Graphic by The Desk)

Sinclair Broadcast Group has emerged as a potential buyer for Comcast’s seven regional cable sports channels, according to a report.

This week, the New York Post newspaper said Sinclair made an unknown offer for the sports channels ahead of a deadline late last month for preliminary bids.

Sinclair is already the country’s largest owner and operator of regional sports channels, having acquired nearly two dozen Fox Sports-branded networks from the Walt Disney Company several years ago. Those channels, now distributed under the Bally Sports name, are set to debut on a sports-centric streaming service sometime in the future.

Comcast operates seven regional sports networks under the “NBC Sports” brand name, including two in California (NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Bay Area). Comcast’s interest in selling off its regional sports channels was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in May.

Adding Comcast’s NBC Sports channels would give Sinclair a deeper arsenal of exclusive broadcast rights to Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association games, among others.

The Post’s reporting was gathered via unnamed sources who spoke with the newspaper on condition of anonymity. The Post has revealed news about Sinclair’s business dealings in the past ahead of formal announcements, though some elements of the newspaper’s reporting — including a possible $23 a month price for its forthcoming sports streaming service — has been disputed as inaccurate by company executives.

Sinclair has struggled to gain cable and satellite carriage for its regional sports channels, with sports programming largely seen by distributors and cable customers as being the primary reason for rising subscription costs.

That rejection has started to trickle down to streaming cable-like services, with Google-owned YouTube TV and Dish Network’s Sling TV pulling Sinclair’s regional sports channels off their lineup over the last two years. Dish Network recently also removed NBC’s regional sports channels from Sling TV, citing high costs associated with carrying these channels.

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