Leadoff: Why didn’t Braves owner buy Fox Sports South?

Braves broadcasters (l-r) Chip Caray, Jeff Francoeur and Joe Simpson.

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Braves broadcasters (l-r) Chip Caray, Jeff Francoeur and Joe Simpson.

Braves owner Liberty Media considered buying Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southeast and 19 other regional sports networks from the Walt Disney Company. But Liberty, well-known for its dealmaking, ultimately passed on that potential transaction.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei was asked on a conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday why the company decided to walk away from the sports networks.

“These are interesting properties, ones we were interested in, but ones that are not without risk,” Maffei said. “And we’ll see how it plays.”

Disney, which acquired the Fox regional sports networks as part of a larger transaction with Fox earlier this year, reached an agreement last week to sell the RSNs to Sinclair Broadcast Group in a deal valued at $10.6 billion. The price was lower than many observers initially expected the collection of 21 networks to bring, held down in part by concerns that some cable and satellite subscribers are increasingly reluctant to pay high fees for sports networks and will continue to cancel or curtail subscriptions.

“They clearly have a lot of visibility and high-profile aspects,” Maffei said of the RSNs. “They’re also products that … have risk in that they are among the most expensive programming on a per-engaged-viewer basis that most (cable and satellite distributors) look at. So unless you had confidence you could get sufficiently long contracts with (distributors) to ensure time and pay on rates that would be sufficient to ensure, as there’s potential cord-cutting and cord-shaving, you could get enough of your capital protected, we weren’t willing to go there.

“I think Sinclair was willing to extend themselves further than we were.”

Braves, Hawks and Atlanta United games are televised on Fox Sports South/Southeast. In all, the 21 networks have local broadcast rights to 16 NBA teams, 14 MLB teams and 12 NHL teams.

> RELATED: Buyer of Fox Sports South and other networks sees new opportunities.


ESPN's computers simulated the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times and projected that the New Orleans Saints have a 61% chance of winning the NFC South and the Falcons a 22% chance. The Falcons are given a 42% chance of reaching the playoffs and a 3% chance of winning Super Bowl LIV.

The Football Power Index projections have the Kansas City Chiefs with the best chance to win the Super Bowl at 16%, followed by the Saints at 15%, New England Patriots at 12% and Los Angeles Rams at 12%.

You can find all of the projections here.


And finally, three Leadoff links …

> 1. With 10 home runs over his past 14 games for Triple-A Gwinnett, Austin Riley looks ready for the big leagues. So how long will the Braves keep him in the minors? Read Steve Hummer's story here.

> 2. Liberty Media released updates Thursday on the Braves' financial performance, debt and construction spending. See story here.

> 3. The Falcons inched closer to having all of their 2019 draft picks signed, agreeing to terms Thursday with first-rounder Kaleb McGary, the 31st overall selection, and fourth-rounder Kendall Sheffield. See D. Orlando Ledbetter's report here.

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