The Utah Jazz’s local television rights may soon be in the hands of the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The same Sinclair that owns KUTV-Ch. 2 and KJZZ-Ch. 14 and operates KMYU-Ch. 12. The same Sinclair that promotes its right-wing agenda by forcing its political views onto its stations’ newscasts.
Having sounded that alarm, let me follow up by telling you — I honestly don’t think it’s anything worth being alarmed about. It’s just another business deal in the volatile television industry. And it involves several big Hollywood players:
• In March, Disney completed its $71 billion purchase of most of Fox. As a condition of the deal, anti-trust regulators ordered Disney (which owns ESPN) to sell off the 22 Fox regional sports networks.
A group led by the New York Yankees (and including Sinclair) paid $3.47 billion to buy YES Network, which airs Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games. A group led by Sinclair paid $9.6 billion for the other 21 Fox RSNs and the Fox College Sports channel.
• Last year, AT&T completed its $81 billion purchase of Time Warner. Among the assets it acquired are four regional sports networks — including the recently renamed AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, which has the Jazz rights.
AT&T is reportedly looking to unload assets to help pay for that deal, including regional sports channels in Utah/Colorado, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Texas.
“We, of course, would be very interested in looking at those and filling out our regional sports network footprint,” Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley told the Wall Street Journal.
Sinclair also owns the Tennis Channel, and it’s partnering with the Chicago Cubs on a new RSN that will launch in 2020.
• All of this came about, indirectly, because of Sinclair’s failed attempt to buy Tribune Broadcasting, which owns KSTU-Ch. 13 in Utah. When Sinclair arrogantly tried to flout FCC rules and lost out on that deal, it turned to buying regional sports networks. And, honestly, it seems less troubling to have Sinclair telecasting sports than news.
(The Salt Lake Tribune has a news-gathering partnership with FOX 13, but is not in any way associated with Tribune Broadcasting.)
If Sinclair buys ATTSN Rocky Mountain, it would inherit the contract that the Jazz signed with FSN-Utah in 2009, which runs through the 2020-21 season. (FSN-Utah was renamed ROOT Sports in 2011 and AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain in 2017.)
If it happens, local viewers probably won’t notice much change other than yet another name for a channel that has been through eight since 1988.
Maybe there will be some closer cooperation with KUTV and more of a presence for that channel’s personnel. Maybe Sinclair will work it out so Jazz fans will be able to stream games.
Stay tuned …
FOOTBALL WINS • It’s not altogether surprising that there was a sudden end Thursday to the dispute that knocked KTVX-Ch. 4 and KUCW-Ch. 30 off DirecTV on July 2.
Football season is upon us. College football starts airing Saturday on ABC and Fox and Sept. 14 on CBS and NBC; NFL games start Thursday on NBC and Sunday, Sept. 8, on CBS and Fox. And Nexstar owns or operates 171 stations, including 33 ABC affiliates, 37 NBC affiliates, 42 Fox affiliates and 47 CBS affiliates.
There would have been a whole lot of angry football fans looking for a way out of their DirecTV contracts if the two sides hadn’t settled. And all those network affiliates would have lost lucrative advertising revenue tied to football.
And if you’re wondering why this was settled after eight weeks and KSL was off DirecTV for almost eight months (August 2018 to April 2019), there’s at least a six-month difference between a single station fighting the satellite provider and 171 stations fighting that battle.