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Report: Sinclair Broadcast Group Weighs Selling Naming Rights to Fox Sports RSNs

Fern Siegel

What’s in a name? For Sinclair Broadcasting Group, it could mean sizable revenue.

The company is debating the sale of naming rights to its 21 regional sports networks (RSN) to sports-betting partners, according to Sportico.

The naming rights to the networks could be sold collectively or individually. SBG secured them in a deal with Disney in August 2019, paying $9.6 billion for what is currently known as the Fox Sports Networks.

The 21 sports nets broadcast rights to 42 professional clubs in the NBA, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

The big three leagues would need to approve any naming deal. The expected change is not a surprise; the Fox name was only granted for a limited period of use.

The Fox Sports Go app, part of the RSN acquisition, may also be revamped to provide direct-to-consumer content or possible gaming additions.

In calendar year 2018, the RSN portfolio delivered a combined $3.8 billion in revenue across 74 million subscribers. But the pandemic has wreaked havoc with this year’s live sports. Sinclair’s valued dropped $4.23 billion. Shares also plummeted 33% year-over-year. Sinclair Broadcast Group reported a loss of $3.2 billion in Q3, including writing off part of the value of the RSNs.

Sinclair has been having a rough go at when it comes maintaining carriage of its sports RSNs on streamers. Recently, both YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV opted not to carry the channels.

Sinclair pointed to them as a cause for a “decline in distribution revenue,” as well as “elevated levels of subscriber erosion” in their Q3 earnings report this morning. The company expects cord-cutting and the loss of YouTube TV and Hulu to lead to a 10% decline in subscriber revenue.

YouTube TV led the way early in October, when it announced it would be dropping the 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks. The streamer reached a short-term extension in March, which saw most Fox Sports RSNs return to the line-up, with the exception of YES Network, Fox Sports West and Fox Sports Prime Ticket.

To help regain momentum, Sinclair intents to launch a new sports app during spring 2021 baseball season and debut The National Desk, a new headline news service, early next year.

At the time of the RSN sale, Sinclair’s existing sports business consisted of Marquee Sports Network, a joint venture with the Chicago Cubs, Tennis Channel and Tennis Media Company, live tennis events-lifestyle, Stadium, a digital site focused on college sports and professional highlights, Ring of Honor Wrestling and YES Network, which covers the New York Yankees.

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