When Rupert Murdoch bought 49 percent of the Yankees- and Brooklyn Nets-focused YES Network over a year ago, he pledged to take a majority stake after three years.
On Friday, 21st Century Fox announced a deal to raise its ownership of the Yankees Sports and Entertainment Network to 80 percent from 49 percent, roughly two years ahead of schedule.
“Our investment in the YES Network underscores our commitment to growing our global sports portfolio with offerings that are exceptional and unique,” James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer/boss’s son at 21st Century Fox, said in a statement.
The deal, pending regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the first calendar quarter. Yankee Global Enterprises will hold on to the remaining 20 percent stake.
So, why did this deal come early?
This month, Time Warner Cable’s decade-old deal to carry YES was expected to expire, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Joe Flint. And after New York City’s biggest cable provider agreed last year to pay a hefty $8 billion over 25 years for the distribution rights to SportsNet LA — a channel devoted to the Los Angeles Dodgers — Murdoch couldn’t let his television rivals hit home runs on both coasts.
So it stands to reason that 21st Century Fox hastened the pace of its YES acquisition to secure it as a fixture of Fox Sports. Fansided’s Josh Hill suggested that YES might be rebranded as Fox Sports New York.
This isn’t Murdoch’s only recent move in the sports world.
In August, News Corp — comprised of the former News Corp.’s less lucrative newspaper and publishing holdings, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and HarperCollins — launched BallBall, a mobile service for watching clips from the biggest soccer leagues in Europe and North America. BallBall currently operates in Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam, where News Corp owns exclusive soccer broadcasting rights for three years.
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