It may have slipped under your radar, but on Thursday, August 29, the New York Yankees made an acquisition that could redefine the daily experience of the average Yankees fan. No, they did not sign a pitcher or claim a waiver, or even activated a player from IL.
They bought back YES Network.
The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, more commonly known as the YES Network, began as the brainchild of a now defunct 1998 merger company known as the YankeeNets between the business operations pages of the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets, as an attempt to get out of a monopoly-like contract with Cablevision and gain team control over their broadcasting rights. Although the Yankees lent their name to the channel, the Yankees and Nets both served as principal investors in the business, which included Goldman Sachs, Quadrangle Group and several private investors. In 2003, the New Jersey Nets were sold and the YankeeNets were renamed Yankee Global Enterprises, which technically owns the Yankees baseball team today.
As a result of all this, the Yankees, the face of the YES Network, owned only a minority stake in the network. In 2007, Goldman Sachs sold its stake for sale, and five years later News Corporation (News Corp.) bought a 49% stake in the network. Two years later, 21[ads1]st Century Fox (which acquired YES Network when it retired from News Corp in 2013) bought an additional 31% to become a majority owner of the company.
As a result of this series of transactions, YES Network has been available to stream as part of Fox Sports Go in recent years, in what has been a sacred gift to those who either live or spend a significant amount of time in a place without cable. However, this situation may soon be changing.
14. In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to buy 21st Century Fox, a move that has been celebrated by Marvel avicionados and condoned by those supporting anti-trust laws (sometimes by the same person at the same time). However, because of Disney's owner of ESPN, they were sold to both Fox Sports Network and all affiliated regional sports networks, including YES Network. Yankee Global Enterprises, which calls for a right-to-first rebate negotiated for sales to Fox, put together a group of investors and bought YES, giving Yankees control of their own network for the first time ever.
Although originally reported by The New York Post in November 2018, the deal was formally announced last Thursday, with the Yankees issuing the following statement.
“This transaction brings @YESNetwork and all the popular programming even closer to the organization that inspired the development itself …. We look forward to expanding the way sports content is delivered and consumed by fans everywhere. ”- Hal Steinbrenner pic .twitter.com / paatx4m9bx
– New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 29, 2019
Now this brings us to the big question: what does this mean for fans?
For the immediate future, there doesn't seem to be much, according to Andrew Marchand, the New York Post columnist on sports journalism . The Yankees will continue to stream on Fox Sports Go for the rest of the season. After that, however, no one knows for sure.
As mentioned in the press release above, the Yankees are joining forces with the acquisition of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Amazon, forming a new strategic partnership. Both new partners have been emerging players in sports journalism and broadcasting the world, with Amazon entering its third season as a major streaming partner for Thursday Night Football, and Sinclair just completed a purchase of the Fox Sports Network (which includes Fox Sports Go, though both will likely be redirected, along with the other 21 regional sports networks Fox Sports had owned), and are partnering with the Chicago Cubs to launch the Marquee Sports Network in Chicago.
While nothing is likely to change for those watching the Yankees via their cable package, the virtual deployment strategy plan is unclear. Had the Yankees partnered with either Sinclair or Amazon, the answer would have been clear; with the former, they would still have their current relationship with Fox Sports Go, while those with the latter would be ahead of Amazon's growing sports streaming.
In addition, the press release does not provide too many hints, saying that all three partners will "work together to strengthen the network and position it strategically to continue the leadership in sports broadcasting across all forms of distribution." specify what role Amazon will play, and vaguely notes that Sinclair will help "manage traditional and virtual distribution relationships."
The key to this relationship may lie in what makes YES unique. Unlike most regional sports networks, YES Network has a national reach, with all non-game programming available to certain cable providers in a variety of markets across the country. Although MLB blackout restrictions would prevent games from being made available across the country, YES Network contains a significant amount of original programming that will appeal to fans of the Yankees, Nets, Manchester City, NYCFC and New York Liberty. Because of this, the network already has a strong foundation in both reach and programming that can be used to expand to a variety of other media, such as an online streaming service with original programming similar to ESPN + or an app for mobile devices.
All this is telling us at the moment is that there are many different directions that this new partnership can take on the YES Network. Let's just hope that no matter what happens, the Yankees will continue to be easily (and reasonably) accessible via electricity for those without cable subscriptions.