The Wilpon family, which sold the team last year to Steve Cohen for about $2.42 billion, are considering multiple options for its majority stake in the network, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the talks are private. A deal is not certain, and the group could eventually elect to retain some or all of SNY, the people said.
Cohen is among those interested, the people said. He is coordinating with the Yankees, the principal owner of the YES Network, whose investors include Sinclair Broadcasting and RedBird Capital. That group has extensive RSN connections beyond just YES Network. Sinclair owns an additional 21 RSNs; RedBird recently acquired a stake in NESN (the Red Sox RSN) as part of a wider investment in Fenway Sports Group.
Redbird, the Mets and a representative for Allen & Co., the bankers that sold the team and would handle any SNY transaction, all declined to comment. The YES Network and the Yankees also declined to comment.
Launched in 2006, SNY serves about 8 million homes in the New York metropolitan area, and 12 million across the country. Sterling Equities, the investment firm owned by the Wilpon and Katz families, owns 65% of the network, with Charter Communications (parent of Time Warner) and Comcast sharing the rest.
The news comes with the cable television at a major inflection point, as cord-cutters and cord-nevers force networks to adopt streaming strategies. RSNs are at the center of that conversation, as they move from a business model heavy on wholesale distribution to one that also includes direct-to-consumer options.
It’s logical that Steve Cohen would be interested, according to Chris Bevilacqua, a New York-based media consultant.
“At the end of the day, an RSN’s existence is derived from the intellectual property rights holder, which in this case are the teams,” Bevilacqua said. “Team owners that are aligned with the media partner, that’s where this world is moving, especially with all this disruption in the industry.”
For the owners of the YES Network, there’s value in adding more scale in the form of highly valuable sports rights, Bevilacqua said. That holds true for Sinclair, RedBird Capital and another YES Network investor, Amazon, which is growing out sports content on Prime Video.
SNY, which is profitable in a normal baseball season, is the official broadcast home of the New York Mets, plus the NFL’s Jets (minus live games) and the UConn women’s basketball team. Its deal with the Mets expires in 2030, according to ESPN.
(This story has been updated in the third and ninth paragraphs to more clearly define the involvement of current YES Network investors.)