Fear not, Yankees fans: the YES Network’s Yankees propaganda will continue even if News Corporation increases its ownership stake in the channel from 49 percent, which it agreed to purchase Tuesday, to as much as 80 percent in three years.
The deal cedes the Yankees continued control of pinstripe content even if the team owns as little as 20 percent.
And why would Fox Sports, the division of News Corporation that owns 19 regional sports networks, want to alter YES’s Yankees propaganda formula? It has served YES so well that it will be valued at $3.8 billion if News Corporation buys majority control.
Carrying the Nets did not make YES valuable. It’s about Yankees games; the pre- and postgame shows; the “Yankeeography” series and replays of games; and the “Yankee Classics,” in which the Yankees never lose. (They have lost classic games, but YES does not show them.)
Earlier this year, when YES was celebrating its 10th anniversary, I talked to Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, and Tracy Dolgin, who runs YES, about the unashamedly pro-Yankees slant of the network’s announcers and the absence of a news operation like the one on SNY. “We tell our people if you want to be bipartisan and fair, don’t work for YES,” Levine said.
As for carrying a nightly news show, like SNY’s “SportsNite,” Dolgin said: “News is a loser. If you want news, watch ESPN.”
Fox will, of course, bring some of its programming to YES. That was one reason to make the deal. It needs a New York outpost, especially as it starts a national sports network that is, for now, called Fox Sports 1. But tinker with the propaganda? Never.
Now, if the Steinbrenner family is willing to sell some of its stake in YES, or all of it, is it willing to sell the team?
There seems to be no incentive unless Hal Steinbrenner eventually cannot envision the Yankees without Derek Jeter.
The Yankees owners will continue to get an annual rights fee from YES, now about $85 million. That will rise at about 4 percent annually for a while, and, eventually, to 5 to 7 percent a year. Through their holding company, Yankee Global Enterprises, the Yankees will get $420 million — half of it now, and half of it in three years — from News Corporation to keep the team on YES through 2042.
Another reason the Steinbrenner family might be averse to selling the team: the tax bill they would be handed upon a sale.
The evolution of YES would have been quite different if another deal had gone through.
In 2000, Dave Checketts, then the president of Madison Square Garden, flew to Florida to meet with George Steinbrenner and two of the New Jersey Nets' owners Ray Chambers and Lewis Katz...
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