Signaling Amazon's deeper commitment to live televised sports, the electronic retailing and OTT video giant has joined a group of investors that is buying 80% of the YES Network from The Walt Disney Co. in a deal valued at $3.47 billion.
Amazon and Sinclair Broadcast Group are "strategic partners" in an investment group led by Yankee Global Enterprises that is buying most of YES Network. Launched in 2002, YES Network is a regional sports network featuring exclusive local TV rights to the New York Yankees, the Brooklyn Nets, New York City FC of Major League Soccer and the WNBA's New York Liberty.
Amazon will have a 15% stake in YES with the option to buy more later, according to Variety.
Disney's sale of YES, announced Thursday afternoon, ties to a broader condition of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox that Disney divest its 22 regional sports networks.
Jon Litner will remain as president of the YES Network.
Why this matters
The deal announced Thursday puts Disney on the cusp of completing the final step of its process of selling off its regional sports networks, and confirms earlier speculation that Amazon and Sinclair would be linked to the YES Network deal (Sinclair has already acquired Disney's 21 other regional sports networks). But it also signals a much deeper investment by Amazon in live TV sports and the possibility that future rights deals could open the door to new streaming distribution of the YES Network.
Amazon also has a deal in place to stream Thursday night NFL games to Prime Video members.
Amazon's specific role in the group purchasing the YES network hasn't been spelled out. But the three companies will "work together to enhance the network and position it strategically to continue its leadership in sports broadcasting across all forms of distribution," they said.
Sinclair, which also owns the Tennis Channel and 191 TV stations, will also work with YES "to manage traditional and virtual distribution relationships."
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading