Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of local TV stations in America, has reached a deal to buy 21 regional sports networks from Disney, according to multiple reports.
The sale — which includes RSNs in some of the nation’s biggest markets — is valued at more than $10 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal is expected to be announced as early as Friday.
Neither Sinclair nor ESPN has commented.
Disney, which owns sports behemoth ESPN, was ordered by the Department of Justice to sell the regional sports networks after it acquired them in March as part of its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox, Fox’s entertainment division.
Sinclair had been thought to be the front-runner in the sale, bidding against Liberty Media and MLB, among others, since it was part of a group that recently acquired the YES Network, the crown jewel of the regional nets, in a separate deal worth $3.5 billion that also included Amazon.
The nearly two dozen RSNs reach from coast to coast, giving Sinclair a sports presence in New York with the YES Network, which carries Yankees and Nets games, and Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, which carry LA-area teams, including the Clippers and Angels.
Sinclair also recently announced a partnership with the Cubs on a new RSN launching in 2020, according to deadline.com.
According to Daily Variety, initial forecasts for the sale valued the RSN group, including YES, at up to $20 billion. However, Sinclair apparently has won them for far less, in no small part because of the limited number of bidders in the auction because of concerns about the value of channels reliant on licensing high-priced sports programming from local major professional sports teams.
With stations in more than 170 mostly smaller and mid-sized cities as of 2018, Sinclair is by far the largest owner of local TV stations.
Though hardly a household name, Sinclair has at times courted controversy by using the local stations to broadcast conservative political stances that some have described as “right-wing,” including so-called “must-run” editorial segments that all of the outlets are required to air as part of local news broadcasts.