Don't look now, but there's a new player in the regional sports network game, hailing from Hollywood's investment community.
Media and entertainment finance specialist Screen Capital International has formed a new vehicle for teams and properties to establish their own RSNs, enlisting the assistance of veteran sports media consultant Lee Berke.
Beverly Hills-based Screen Capital International has launched a new affiliate, RSN Partners, with an eye toward operating a number of the services. To that end, it has retained Berke's LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, Inc., whose client base extends to some 30 pro and collegiate teams, to analyze the sports media marketplace and develop specific network opportunities.
SCI has invested in various media and entertainment entities, including movies and theater, and has also advised Chip Rosenbloom during his sale of the National Football League's St. Louis Rams.
Entering a field with such key players as Fox SportsNet, Comcast SportsNet and a number of team- and distributor-owned networks, RSN Partners is backed by Boston-based ABRY Partners, LLC, whose media and communications portfolio includes carriers RCN, Grande Communications and Atlantic Broadband.
"The team RSN business continues to grow. Just look at the landmark deal between the Los Angeles Lakers and Time Warner Cable. The financial community recognizes these opportunities," said Berke, who has helped establish YES Network and Comcast SportsNet BayArea, among other RSNs. "But there are risks involved in setting up these networks, relative to distribution and equity, and much of it has been done on ad hoc basis. RSN Partners is looking to become the one-stop shop for these types of financial resources."
Clint Kisker, who spearheaded the deal for SCI, said the firm has been charting a dedicated entry into this arena for a couple of years.
"The value of premium content, specifically sports-related content continues to grow and RSNP is our way of providing capital to owners of professional sports franchises who would rather use their content to increase the value of their franchise as opposed to simply getting a license fee," Kisker said in a statement.
Noted David Molner, founder of SCI and chairman of RSNP: "We are living through big changes in the distribution landscape that signal, once again, that content is king. Great sports franchises that attract loyal audiences over decades are exactly the kind of premium content that should be rewarded by direct ownership in better focused and better managed networks. That is best achieved in partnership with capital providers who operate under these principles. We intend to aggressively pursue this opportunity set through RSNP."
According to Berke, initial conversations already have taken place about a number of opportunities, but client confidentiality clauses prohibit him from elaborating.