Comcast Agrees to New Deal for Fox News, YES

Comcast agreed to a new deal with 21st Century Fox to extend carriage of Fox News Channel—and carry a dozen Fox regional sports networks, including YES in the New York, which has been off the air since the end of the Yankees baseball season.

Driven by the election cycle, Fox News had record setting ratings in 2016.

With Republican Donald Trump about to be inaugurated, Fox News had a lot of leverage.  Considering Trump’s criticism of media outlets including Comcast-owned NBC, dropping Fox News would have been politically dangerous for Comcast, whose senior executives were big Democratic boosters in recent years. The previous Fox News carriage deal expired Dec. 31.

During the campaign Trump said he believed that by acquiring NBCUniversal, Comcast was too big and ought to be broken up. He has also said he opposes the proposed acquisition of CNN owner Time Warner by AT&T.

Terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but Fox News was already getting among the highest fees of any non-sports network.

Since Roger Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News was ousted amid sexual harassment allegations earlier this year, Fox News’ distribution has been consolidated into the larger Fox Networks Group, When Fox News was more independent under Ailes, it was more difficult for the company to use Fox News’ strength on behalf of other networks.

 “We always said that we would continue to evaluate whether there was a way to bring back the YES Network under terms that are consistent with our commitment to providing the best programming at the best possible price," Comcast said in a statement. ".Our year-end discussions with Fox  gave us a chance to revisit this, and we were able to reach an overall agreement for Fox News Channel, 12 Fox RSNs, and YES Network that makes sense for both of us – and most importantly, our customers.”

There was no firm date for when YES would return to Comcast systems. During baseball’s off-season, YES carries games of the dismal Brooklyn Nets, which have not been attracting strong ratings.

By delaying the return of YES until the Yankees are ready to take the field, Comcast could save a significant amount of money—sources estimate as much as $20 million--possibly making whatever increase it is paying for Fox News more palatable.

The deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which like Fox, is controlled by the family of Rupert Murdoch.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.