BALTIMORE — The channels carrying the vast majority of Indians and Cavaliers games are now officially under new ownership.
After a lengthy process, the United States Department of Justice on Friday approved the sale of 21 Fox Sports regional networks to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $10.6 billion. The networks, which hold broadcast rights for 42 combined teams in Major League Baseball; the National Basketball Association; and the National Hockey League, include SportsTime Ohio (home of the Tribe) and Fox Sports Ohio (Cavs).
Sinclair President and CEO Chris Ripley issued the following statement:
"We are very excited about the transformational aspects the RSN acquisition will have on Sinclair and are eager to bring those opportunities to life. We welcome Jeff Krolik, President of the RSNs, and the rest of the RSN management team and staff to the Sinclair family. We have an exciting future ahead of us."
The RSNs were technically owned by Disney after the company bought 21st Century Fox from the Fox Corporation last year. However, the DOJ ordered Disney (owner of the ESPN family of networks) to sell off the sports channels or face antitrust litigation.
Sinclair is the largest television station operator in the U.S., owning 193 stations in 100 different markets. The organization has come under fire in recent years for a perceived conservative bias, notably with "must-run" political commentary segments often featuring slanted and even false statements. Local Sinclair newscasters last year were also ordered to read promos lamenting the "troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country," a move that brought widespread criticism as it was viewed as an attack on mainstream outlets.
However, Sinclair also owns the fast-growing Tennis Channel and the newer internet network Stadium, both of which have steered clear of politics. The company also says the RSNs and Fox College Sports (also acquired in the deal) will be run by an indirect subsidiary known as Diamond Sports Group LLC. Byron Allen, owner of Entertainment Studios and The Weather Channel, will act as a partner in the entity.
As the Fox Sports branding will surely be going by the wayside, the new names for the RSNs or when such a re-brand will take place are still unknown at this time. Many feel it could involve the name "Diamond," although Sinclair is also launching an all-Chicago Cubs regional network next year that will be called Marquee Sports Network.
SportsTime Ohio was originally launched and owned by the Dolan family before being sold to Fox in 2013. Besides the Indians, it is also the home of Cleveland Monsters hockey. Fox Sports Ohio—which began as SportsChannel Ohio way back in 1989—also carries Columbus Blue Jackets and Columbus Crew SC games in addition to the Cavs, and is the home of the Cincinnati Reds for southern Ohio viewers.
This is Sinclair's first foray into the Cleveland-Akron-Canton market. The company already owns local news stations in Toledo, Columbus, Steubenville, and Dayton.