JohnWallStreet has learned Sinclair (SBGI) will be “increasing its stake in Stadium” (as CEO Chris Ripley hinted at during the company’s Q3 earnings call) and that the digital television network will become a part of the larger telecommunications conglomerate. Expect the deal to be announced within the next week or two. SBGI plans to use Stadium content to fill non-live programming windows across their lot of RSNs. Stadium said in a statement that “we are truly excited about the potential opportunities for [the company] and to work more closely with Sinclair across its impressive portfolio of sports media properties.”
Howie Long-Short: Ripley also noted during Sinclair’s most recent quarterly call that the cable distributor would look to grow the value of the RSNs – not by increasing subscription fees or the distribution footprint – but by improving the quality of the programming (outside of pre and post game shows) across the regional sports networks; and that the company would do it at a “less expensive price.” Taking a larger interest in Stadium makes a lot of sense when one considers that Fox paid eight-figures annually for the shoulder programming on its RSNs. If SBGI is going to need that kind of content too (and have to spend anywhere close to the same amount), it might as well outsource the production to a company it owns.
From the Stadium perspective, the deal should be looked at as a watershed moment in company history. The digital sports network goes from outlier (at least within the mainstream sports fans’ consciousness) with a convoluted ownership structure (with stakeholders maintaining all sorts of different agendas), to integral part of an entity that controls some of sports’ most valuable premium broadcast rights. It’s hard to understate how significant this deal is for the two-year-old network.
For those watching, Stadium will be cutting back on programming in the short-term as it refocuses with the goal of producing content for the widest possible distribution. Look for the network’s studio franchises to create shows that the give the RSNs maximum scheduling flexibility. It’s also reasons to believe that Stadium will be in the market to acquire additional live rights.
Unfortunately, as is often the case when one company is integrated into a larger one, duplication in personnel has forced layoffs. Stadium employees were informed at a company meeting on Wednesday that the necessary downsizing would take place over the next several days. It’s worth noting that Sinclair’s scale – there are hundreds of positions are currently listed on their website – may afford Stadium’s senior executives the opportunity to carefully place some of those impacted by the transition into new jobs.
Fan Marino: Stadium recently released a list of the sixty-six NCAA men’s college basketball games – spanning five conferences (Conference USA, Mountain West, Patriot League, West Coast Conference and Atlantic 10 Conference) – that it will carry this season. The best team scheduled to appear on the network is No. 18 Saint Mary’s of the WCC. Stadium will showcase the Gaels five times.
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