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AT&T sale of regional sports networks ‘falls short’

US telco AT&T’s plans to sell its four regional sports networks as part of a wider plan to slash the company’s debts is faltering, according to the New York Post.

The four networks are AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Utah, Nevada and Colorado), AT&T SportsNet Southwest (parts of Texas and Louisiana), and Root Sports Northwest (Alaska, Washington and Oregon).

They have rights to more than two dozen professional teams, college programs and NCAA conferences, including the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, the NBA Houston Rockets, and MLB Seattle Mariners.

AT&T had hoped to gain around $1bn for the RSNs but the bids have come in around $500m or under. It is possible that AT&T could cancel the sale process altogether as a result.

The lead bidder is reportedly Sinclair Broadcast Group, which agreed to buy 21 Fox regional sports networks from Disney for $9.6bn last May. Sinclair has been very open about wanting to expand its presence further, and has indicated that smaller groups of networks, such as quartet of AT&T outlets, do not work as well in the current media landscape.

AT&T is looking to sell the RSNs after amassing more than $180bn in debt following the acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner Inc.

Elsewhere, Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals are reportedly on the brink of a new television contract with RSN Fox Sports Kansas City. A deal in the 10-to-15-year range is expected to be announced this week.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs have signed a carriage deal with streaming platform Hulu for their soon-to-launch RSN Marquee Sports Network.

Through the Hulu + Live TV offering, subscribers will have access to Marquee Sports Network, which will feature nearly every Cubs Spring Training game, at least 145 regular season games, exclusive Cubs content and original sports programming.

A deal with leading Chicago-area regional cable provider Comcast/Xfinity has yet to be signed, however. “We still expect Comcast to carry it, but today if someone was worried about it, there’s still a way of getting our games for the [2020] season,” said Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations.

Read this: Sinclair president Ripley: “There’s a real commercial logic” behind buying more RSNs