Disney’s Fox Deal Means ESPN Will Double Down on Regional Sports

Why does Bob Iger want to keep regional sports networks?

Over the past few years, ESPN has been facing dropping subscriber rates. The solution they’ve come to is surprising: ESPN is going to put itself on the hook for even more expensive sports deals. Right now, included in the Disney and 21st Century Fox acquisition deal are the rights to Fox’s big regional sports network. Fox has 22 RSNs across the country, which have deals with 44 pro sports teams to deliver games to cable subscribers. But why is ESPN signing up for more of the same problems? None of Fox’s valuable assets can go to ESPN Plus because it is tied up in pay TV deals for years. Maybe it is so that the local deals won’t end up in the hands of someone else, or simply that adding dozens of teams and territories should make life better for ESPN’s sales force and give them more leverage. But Recode still has one question: Rupert Murdoch hasn’t been sold on RSNs for years now, so why is Bob Iger?

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