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Amazon Teaming With Yankees On YES Purchase

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YES Network

Amazon’s initial bid for those 22 regional sports networks Disney acquired in its purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets may not have been all it was initially reported to be. According to a report from Fox Business Channel, the company did not enter a bid on a package that includes all 22 networks Disney is being forced by the Justice Department to divest. Instead, Amazon is working with the New York Yankees to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network.

Charles Gasparino and Lydia Moynihan of FBC cite “people directly involved with the process” that say that what Amazon is interested in is being able to stream Yankees games through its Prime Video subscription service. It doesn’t mean that Amazon won’t put in a bid on the other 21 networks. It just hasn’t done that yet.

The partnership of the Yankees and Amazon could allow Amazon to stream Yankees games on its Amazon Prime subscription service, but initial press reports cited Amazon as a first-round bidder on all the RSNs as well as YES — signifying a major new corporate strategy for the online retail giant as it seeks to develop more sports programming (Amazon already streams Thursday Night Football).

But people with direct knowledge of the process say Amazon is only weighing a larger bid for the other RSNs that may come as the second round progresses while it is actively negotiating with the Yankees. One reason that Amazon may scale back its ambitions is that its CEO Jeff Bezos may want proceed cautiously in a business that he’s relatively new at, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. 

Another wrinkle reported by Gasparino and Moynihan is the confusion over what purchasing the networks means for the streaming rights of the teams involved. Apparently Major League Baseball Commissioner felt the need to make it clear that a winning bid didn’t mean controlling teams’ digital futures.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred then took the unusual step of inserting himself in the multi-billion-dollar auction process, telling bankers in charge that they need to alert potential buyers that any purchase of these entities doesn’t include digital rights to baseball games that remain the property of the leagues and its teams — a move that could lower the price of the networks as the auction process proceeds, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

How some of the bidders came to believe they would own, rather than lease from the league and the teams those rights and baseball’s response has not been reported. The reason for the confusion is unclear. Bankers didn’t “drill down” on the exact nature of the digital rights in conversations with potential buyers in the first round of the bidding process but planned to do so later, said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.

What effect both of these developments mean to the second round of bidding remains to be seen. Could Manfred’s statement drive down the price? Could the price skyrocket if and when Amazon does decide to throw its hat in the ring on the other 21 networks? Were the current bidders aware that their bids were for a package that wouldn’t include the YES Network?

There are six bidders so far, and it is possible for other entities like Fox or Major League Baseball to get involved in the next round of bidding. It looks like we won’t get answers to any of those questions until then.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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