Sinclair reportedly offers to buy eight NBC Sports RSNs

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Sinclair Broadcast Group has reportedly offered to acquire seven of NBCUniversal’s regional sports networks, The New York Post first reported.

NBCU has reportedly been exploring the sale of all or some of its RSNs as the segment becomes less profitable as the linear TV market continues to shift. Several of the unit’s networks have been hit was layoffs in recent months.

A first round of bids was reportedly due June 28, 2021.

There’s no word on what Sinclair offered NBC, but the proposal reportedly included an 8% stake in SportsNet New York.

Sinclair previously bought 21 of Fox Sports Network channels from Disney, which acquired them as part of its acquisition of most assets of 21st Century Fox. In order to gain approval for that deal, Disney pledged to sell off the RSNs, mainly due to ownership in sports giant ESPN.

Sinclair recently rebranded Fox Sports Networks under the Bally Sports name, thanks to a licensing partnership with Bally, a hotel and casino operator. Those changes also included merging a few of the networks, essentially causing a few to shut down.

RSNs typically have deals with one or more sports franchises in each region or market they operate to carry some or all of the teams’ games. For example, SportsNet New York has a contract to carry the Mets games, while NBC Sports Chicago with the Bulls, White Sox and Blackhawks, who are all also part owners of the channel.

Chicago Cubs games, however, are carried by Marquee Sports Network, a joint venture between the team ownership and Sinclair, meaning the company already has a foothold in the market and a potential purchase, assuming the Chicago channel is included, could make it a dominant force in the region.

That could be a hint of the overall strategy Sinclair is after — whether or not it manages to acquire NBC Sports Chicago — ultimately having broadcast deals with so many pro sports teams that it could gain high grounds in negotiating future rights deals.

NBCSN, a cable channel owned by NBCU is shutting down later this year, with much of its sports programming moving to sister network USA or NBC’s streamer Peacock.

NBCSN faced revenue drops due to the pandemic as well as shifting TV habits. Its deal for NHL games is also set to expire and competition from networks such as Fox Sports 1, which remains owned by Fox Media, and ESPN.