Get ready, ESPN: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is coming after you. Today, News Corp announced that it would buy a 49 percent stake in the Yankees’ YES Network. The deal also includes an option to buy up to 80 percent of the company. The Yankees will own just 25 percent of the company.
YES has 15 million subscribers, and is largely regional. All that could change under the auspices of Fox, which has long attempted to create regional rivals to the larger and more powerful ESPN. News Corp already owns major chunks of 20 regional sports networks, with over 67 million subscribers.
News Corp. is assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations …. While a final decision to move forward hasn’t been made, the company is considering converting its Fuel action-sports network to the new channel, two of the people said. With a national network, Fox would join Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC Sports Network and CBS Corp. (CBS)’s CBS Sports Network in taking on the dominant ESPN.
News Corp’s involvement in the sports entertainment field would be a massive step forward for competition in the marketplace. They already own the rights to broadcast Dodger games in Los Angeles. For too long, ESPN has held a full monopoly – and it has had some political consequences, with ESPN routinely taking the liberal line on everything from ownership/union disputes to touting of President Obama.