ESPN will acquire Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks, including Fox Sports Southwest, according to an announcement Thursday from The Walt Disney Company.
The move is part of a $52.4 billion all-stock buyout of Fox assets by Disney (which is a majority owner of ESPN). However, the deal would not include Fox’s FS1 and FS2 sports channels.
In letter to employees obtained by the Star-Telegram, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch told employees that the deal would take 12 to 18 months to complete.
“Until then, we will continue to operate independently as we do now and there will be no related changes to your position or responsibilities,” he wrote.
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Fox Sports Southwest has multiyear television broadcast rights deals with the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers.
A Fox Sports Southwest official said the network would not comment on the deal, and that any questions about the deal going forward would be handled by Disney.
Fox Sports Southwest’s broadcast partnership with the Mavericks dates to 1996. Their deal, reached in November 2015, includes the rights for 80 or 81 Mavericks regular season games per season. SportsBusiness Journal reported the regional network pays the team a rights fee of $50 million per season.
The annual $20 million rights fee Fox Sports Southwest pays to the Stars is the eighth highest fee of any team in the NHL, according to Forbes. The length of that contract, signed in 2014, was reportedly 11 years, but the financial terms remain undisclosed.
This is Fox Sports Southwest’s 25th year with the team, and it will broadcast 80 Stars’ regular season games this season, as well as select playoff games.
The Rangers, meanwhile, just began a 20-year, $3 billion deal with the regional network that was signed in 2010. The terms didn’t begin until the 2015 season.
Disney’s acquisition of these Fox assets is likely to face significant push-back from the Justice Department, which is in charge of antitrust oversight and regulation. Last month, the department filed a lawsuit to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner.