Sinclair Broadcast Group shares were up more than 10% in early trading Monday after reports that its Chicago-area regional sports network was close to a carriage deal with Comcast.
Comcast, the largest cable operator in the Chicago region had been slow to reach a carriage agreement with Sinclair’s Marquee Sports Network, the RSN it jointly owns with the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team. But reports over the weekend that the two may be close to a deal helped goose the stock.
Sinclair stock was priced as high as $17.54 each on May 18, up 12.6%, or $1.96 per share. The stock was priced at $17.41 as of 2:03 p.m., up 11.8%.
According to reports, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney told season ticket holders in a conference call that a Comcast deal would be signed shortly after MLB play resumes. While the league hasn’t said anything official yet, according to reports it has proposed resuming games in July, playing an abbreviated 82-game season. That proposal would have to be approved by the MLB Players Association before it would become reality. Baseball’s regular season was suspended in late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Comcast officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Marquee Sports Network launched in February. Sinclair has secured deals with distributors representing about half of the homes in the Chicago area, including Hulu and DirecTV. According to reports, Kenney said Comcast and MSN were close to signing a deal on March 12, but that was shelved as the pandemic took hold. Every major professional sports league has suspended their regular seasons as a result of the outbreak.
Comcast and Sinclair have reportedly been at odds for months over the price of the Marquee Sports Network, which by some estimates is as high as $6 per subscriber per month. While other distributors have balked at paying increasingly higher prices for RSNs, some pundits believe that the lack of live sports, scripted and unscripted programming during the pandemic has made it more critical for pay TV providers to have access to games once they resume.