At the end of December, News Corporation (NWS) is expected to split into two separate companies. One company named News Corporation will control the firm's education, Australian, and publishing assets. The other, which will be named Fox Group, will control the media giant's cable television, television, film, and direct satellite assets. Before the company splits, News Corporation is already looking at spending its billions of dollars in cash to strengthen the Fox Group.
The biggest recent acquisition by Fox Group involved the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, commonly known as YES. News acquired a 49% stake in the television channel that is the live local provider of New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games. The acquisition is another example of the Fox Sports Media Group focusing on live local coverage of MLB, NHL and NBA games.
Rumors have News Corporation in the running to buy SportsTimeOhio TV Channel for $230 million. The channel has the live local coverage rights of the Cleveland Indians. Fox Sports owned the rights to the Indians previously, before SportsTime was launched as its own channel. Fox Sports already has a strong presence in the state with its Fox Sports Ohio, which covers the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Cavaliers. Rival media company Time Warner (TWX) also is bidding on SportsTime.
Here is a look at the strong portfolio of live local coverage that Fox Sports provides:
|Channel||States Covered||Teams and Conferences Covered|
|FS Arizona||Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada||Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Coyotes, Phoenix Mercury, Pac-12|
|FS Detroit||Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin||Detroit Tigers, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings|
|FS Florida||Florida, Alabama, Georgia||Tampa Bay Rays, Orlando Magic, Miami Marlins, Florida Panthers|
|FS Indiana||Indiana||Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever|
|FS Kansas City||Missouri||Kansas City Royals|
|FS Midwest||Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky, Arkansas||St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Big 12, Conference USA|
|FS New Orleans||Louisiana||New Orleans Hornets|
|FS North||Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota||Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Lynx|
|FS Ohio||Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York||Cleveland Cavaliers, Cincinnati Reds, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew|
|FS Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|FS San Diego||California||San Diego Padres|
|FS South||Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky||Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Braves|
|FS Carolinas||North Carolina, South Carolina||Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte Bobcats|
|FS Tennessee||Tennessee, Alabama||Memphis Grizzlies, Nashville Predators|
|FS Southwest||Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas||Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Houston Dynamo, Texas Rangers, FC Dallas, San Antonio Spurs, San Antonio Silver Stars, Big 12, Conference USA|
|FS West||California, Nevada, Hawaii||Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Chivas USA, Pac 12|
|FS Wisconsin||Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa||Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Badgers Hockey,|
|Sun Sports||Florida||Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning|
|SportSouth||Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina||Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies, Nashville Predators|
Along with these wholly owned assets, Fox Sports also has ownership stakes in the following assets:
· MSG Plus - Co-owned with Madison Square Garden (MSG). Is available in New York, New jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Shows games featuring the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and the Big East Conference.
· Root Sports - Is available in 18 states and has 8.3 million subscribers.
· PeachtreeTV - Carries Atlanta Braves
· Bay Area - Available in California, Nevada, and Oregon, Bay Area covers the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Jose Sharks, Golden State Warriors, Pac 10 Conference, Mountain West Conference, and WAC. The station is 25% owned by Fox Sports in a partnership with Comcast (CMCSA).
· Big Ten Network - Fox Sports owns 51% of the network that covers Big Ten Conference games in all sports. The remaining portion is owned by the conference itself. I wrote recently about the addition of the University of Maryland to the Big Ten will increase the already high 40 million households that have the Big Ten Network. The addition of Maryland will add the channel to strong regions like Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
Sporting events continue to be valuable media assets. The events are watched by people in real time, providing key advertising opportunities. The cancellation of NHL games through the end of 2012 hurts Fox Sports assets a little bit, but next season's MLB season will pay off big for the newly spun off Fox Group.
Shares of News Corporation are trading near five year highs. I suggest waiting until the spin off and buying stock in Fox Group. The publishing unit has been a drag on revenue and profits. Fox Group will provide the Fox Sports assets to shine and compete with Comcast and Disney's sports media assets.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.