Some free-agent baseball contracts will be signed this winter could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
But the biggest deal affecting baseball was finished on Thursday, and the dollar figure is much higher. Disney is buying 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion.
The merger doesn’t include FS1 or FS2, but Disney will acquire Fox’s 18 regional sports networks, which includes Fox Sports Kansas City. That’s the network that televises Royals games, as well as Sporting Kansas City contests.
Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts wrote that “Disney CEO Bob Iger is doubling down on live sports television, rather than back away from it, as some analysts have suggested or predicted Disney might. And the local channels are a potential boon to ESPN.”
Multiple people have noted that Fox regional networks would be rebranded as ESPN channels. Perhaps it’ll be ESPN Kansas City.
Roberts writes that there could be regional versions of “SportsCenter” that would broadcast news about local teams. In the case of FSKC, that could mean a nightly show featuring highlights of the Royals, Chiefs, Sporting Kansas City, Mizzou, Kansas and Kansas State.
Additionally, the Royals and Sporting KC content on Fox Sports Kansas City could be used for ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN Plus, which is set to debut in the spring.
Iger said Thursday on CNBC, “There will be a sharing of product so that we can infuse ESPN national with some more local content.”
There is also speculation that ESPN eventually could sell season packages to fans that would allow them to stream their favorite team’s games without a cable subscription.
The timing of the Disney deal could be great for the Royals, whose television contract with Fox Sports Kansas City runs through 2019. As the number of cable subscribers have declined in the past few years, it seemed the Royals had missed out on a chance for one of the huge TV deals that other teams, like the St. Louis Cardinals, have received in recent years.
But the Disney acquisition and the need for more content for ESPN’s streaming service could work in the Royals’ favor when negotiations begin.
The Royals’ current deal pays them $20 million a year. The Star’s Sam Mellinger reported earlier this year that a new deal could bring them between $50 million and $70 million per year.
Perhaps a streaming element and ESPN’s need for more content for a regional “SportsCenter” could increase that number. But time will tell.