For ESPN, it gives them regional market penetration they’ve long sought but were never able to achieve.
The company launched properties such as ESPN Boston an ESPN LA, but the websites never took off, despite ESPN paying top dollar for local journalists.
There’s also possibility of consolidation. Fox has two affiliates in LA and two in Ohio (Fox Sports Ohio and SportsTime Ohio). The Indians led the league in local television ratings, but ESPN may not see a reason to keep both networks when there are streaming and other options.
The Reds are one of the few teams to still have a stake in their local channel. They own 30 percent of Fox Sports Ohio. Karp said Disney would likely want to maintain a joint ownership.
“I think they’ll want to continue to keep business with the team,” Karp said. “That vested interest to make it work. At the same time, baseball teams want to be baseball teams, they don’t want to run a television network.”
Karp said big upsides were local editions of SportsCenter focused on regional sports as well as upgrades in production value. This would give the network more local flavor and help the national brand.
Karp said Disney and ESPN will continue to make plans for their acquisitions as they move through the approval process, but other factors also need to playout. Both Disney and ESPN will be hiring new presidents soon.
There’s also the chance ESPN would sell off the regional affiliates to Comcast, ATT or some other digital or broadcast entity.
“I’m speculating, but it’s an option,” Karp said. “They may not want this massive staple of networks.
The movie stuff made all the big headlines, but how this will shake out will be interesting. It’s the biggest thing I’m following.”