The Pirates and Penguins might soon have a new home on television sets across the Greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.
Per Bloomberg, AT&T is aggressively trying to reduce its debt by $8 billion before the end of 2019. To achieve that, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh could get the axe. Joining AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh on the potential chopping block are AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Rockets, Astros), AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountains (Jazz, Golden Knights, Rockies) and Root Sports Northwest (Mariners). Together, Bloomberg estimates, selling these four networks could reduce AT&T's total debt by around $1 billion.
Among the potential buyers should AT&T follow through is Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., which agreed in May to purchase 21 regional Fox sports networks from Walt Disney Co. That move cost Sinclair $9.6 billion but served as a prominent, recent example of the company's aggressive acquisition strategy. Because of that, many view Sinclair as capable and likely to make a move on these AT&T properties should they become up for grabs.
Per Bloomberg, all this is still in early, preliminary stages. AT&T has not formally begun a process to sell the sports networks, and sources told Bloomberg no deal is guaranteed. Neither AT&T nor Sinclair commented on the matter.
The Penguins' current deal with AT&T SportsNet expires at the end of the 2028-29 NHL season thanks to a 20-year extension signed on April 27, 2011.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are not operating on such a long-term deal. Their local TV contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, and although the team has discussed an extension over the past two years per our own Dejan Kovacevic, nothing has been formally signed. Furthermore, as our John Perrotto reported in March, it's unlikely the Pirates would shift affiliations thanks to the Penguins' long-term deal already in place.
Currently, AT&T SportsNet reaches around 3 million homes throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Maryland, broadcasting around 350 live events annually.