Disney has "sold its 80% interest in the YES Network" to an investment group led by the Yankees and Sinclair Broadcast Group for $3.47B, according to Richard Morgan of the N.Y. POST. The new owners of YES also "include Amazon and investment firms including RedBird Capital, Blackstone and Mubadala Capital." The Yankees "already owned a 20% stake in YES" (N.Y. POST, 8/30). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Soper & Novy-Williams noted Disney "acquired majority ownership of the YES Network" as part of its $71B takeover of Fox assets earlier this year. But the Yankees’ owners had an "option to buy out that stake and held lengthy talks leading up to Thursday’s announcement." Sinclair will now own 20% of YES. The Yankees will have the largest piece, with 26%, while Amazon will have 15%, "with the right to buy more." The financial investors will "roughly split the remaining 39%" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/30). Sinclair said that it funded YES "through its investment in Diamond Sports Group, the wholly owned subsidiary that bought" the 21 RSNs and was formed with Weather Channel Owner Byron Allen (BALTIMORE SUN, 8/30). YES President Jon Litner will "stay on in his current role to ensure continuity" and "signed a new contract with the deal's closure." Sinclair will also "play a role in YES Network's distribution discussions in the future" (CABLEFAX.com, 8/30).
MLB POLICY CHANGE COMING? Asked how the deal might affect the digital streaming rights to Yankees games within the team's market, club President Randy Levine said that he expected MLB to "announce changes to its policy soon." The AP's Jake Seiner noted teams "cannot currently sell digital rights to local broadcasts." Levine: "You should just stay tuned because I think the commissioner will be speaking about that in the near future." MLB declined to comment (AP, 8/29).
ESPN VP/Production Jamie Reynolds is onsite at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center overseeing the net’s U.S. Open broadcast, which happens to be ESPN’s biggest production of the year with more than 160 hours of linear TV coverage. Reynolds recently touched on the challenges of broadcasting the slam, expanded qualifying coverage and more. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
- On what makes broadcasting the U.S. Open unique: It’s a two-fold strategy. When we go to the Australian Open and Wimbledon, we have the luxury of sitting on top of the host feed providers. That gives us latitude. We pick and choose, based on the order of play, best names and best action. The challenge for us at the U.S. Open is we inherit that responsibly to handle 16 courts of coverage and then layer ESPN, ESPN Int’l and all the other broadcasters from around the world -- on top of it. As the stewards of the event, we have the obligation to get the baseline coverage right. Then on top of that, we add the ESPN sparkle.
- On expanding qualifying coverage this year: The investment is in trying to take advantage of what tennis can do both domestically and globally. There are a lot of great stories out there. Qualifying week is really about the new names trying to breakthrough, and others that have had a good career but now find themselves at a stage where they need to get into the main draw. We’ve got both ends of the spectrum.
- On managing expectations and staff: As long as the screen doesn’t go dark, we’re doing our job. It’s one of those sporting events on the international scale that requires passion and commitment. We have over 700 credentialed people helping us manage this event. There are very few events now that require a 21-day commitment. At the end of the day, it’s a very unique experience and you try to harness that energy and enthusiasm to turn it into something special.
- On his favorite personal U.S. Open moment: There was one night early in my tenure where John McEnroe was calling a Novak Djokovic match. During the warmup, Novak mimicked McEnroe’s mannerisms on the court and tried to coax him to come down and play. That was just an example of some of the lightheartedness that happens here at a night session. It’s sports theatre.
- His picks to win: I would love to see Serena Williams return. The journey she has been on has been remarkable and it would be romantic justice after everything that she’s gone through. On the men’s side, after what we witnessed with Djokovic and Roger Federer at Wimbledon -- I would like to see Roger come through.
In N.Y., Andrew Marchand reports Chris Simms "will be a weekly analyst" on all of NBC’s "Football Night in America" studio shows this season. Simms will "continue his halftime and postgame analysis on Notre Dame football" and will "add in-game analysis from the sideline during the games." He is "becoming one of the main faces of NBC’s football coverage" (N.Y. POST, 8/30).
FOR THE BRAND: In Pittsburgh, Joshua Axelrod notes Pat McAfee made his ESPN debut on Thursday night for the call of UCLA-Cincinnati and he "began his booth career by flexing his accent and language skills." His "eccentric style was exactly what some folks were looking for in an announcer." However, some viewers "were less enthused with his jokes and tangents" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/30).
NOT MOVING THE NEEDLE: In Phoenix, Bill Goodykoontz writes Pac-12 Networks play-by-play announcer Roxy Bernstein's call of Kent State-Arizona State on Thursday "was fine." Bernstein will "tell you what's going on just fine, but you won't remember much of what he said the minute the game is over." Meanwhile, Pac-12 Networks "evidently was able to attract enough advertisers for only three or four commercials, which it showed again and again and again and again" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/30).
STEELER SHUFFLE: In Pittsburgh, Adam Bittner notes Steelers RB James Conner will join KDKA-FM's Chris Mueller and Andrew Fillipponi for a "weekly show" that will air at 5:00pm ET on Mondays, beginning Sept. 9, the day after the Steelers' season opener against the Patriots. WXDX-FM's Mark Madden earlier this week tweeted that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s show with the station "will be discontinued." Neither KDKA nor Roethlisberger "has made any official announcements" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/30).