Amazon Joins Bidding for Sports Networks Disney to Divest: CNBC

(Bloomberg) -- Inc., furthering its aggressive push into live sports programming, is bidding for the regional sports networks Walt Disney Co. must divest under terms of its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc. assets, CNBC reported Tuesday.

Amazon wants to buy all 22 networks on offer, CNBC said, citing sources familiar with the matter. Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co., Blackstone Group LP, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and Tegna Inc. are also among the bidders, the channel said.

The New York Yankees and an unknown sovereign wealth fund are among those seeking control of the YES Network, which broadcasts Yankees baseball and Brooklyn Nets basketball, CNBC said. Bloomberg News reported Nov. 12 that the Yankees were moving forward with plans to buy back YES.

Seattle-based Amazon is increasingly interested in adding live sports to its Prime Video streaming service. It had a rocky start with its U.K. coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament this summer and is gearing up to show live English Premier League soccer in late 2019.

Amazon’s balance sheet can easily support the $20 billion or so it would cost to buy the whole package of Disney sports networks, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Robert Schiffman said in a note. “With ample borrowing capacity and cash on hand, Amazon’s ability to outpay other competitors for these assets should be easily attainable,” he said.

The part of 21st Century Fox that Disney isn’t buying, which will be known simply as Fox, didn’t submit a bid for the networks in the first round but might in the second round, which is expected before year-end, CNBC said.

Amazon declined to comment on the report. Disney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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