Sinclair Inc. is exploring bringing in an equity partner for the Tennis Channel as well as other strategic alternatives for the network, industry sources confirmed to Front Office Sports, marking a major potential move for one of the most unique success stories in sports media.
The tennis-specific network, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, offers the most concentrated single-sport coverage anywhere in television, broadcasting nearly 5,000 hours in 2023. In the third quarter of 2023, Sinclair’s tennis segment, which includes the Tennis Channel, the network’s streaming operations, and Tennis.com, reported $59 million in revenue, up by 9%, and $13 million in operating income, up 18%, beating prior Sinclair guidance and representing a bright spot for the company. Sinclair is now projecting full-year Tennis Channel revenue to reach $226 million and adjusted earnings of at least $61 million.
That performance, speaking in part to the rising global profile of tennis, has occurred despite ongoing cord-cutting continuing to dramatically reshape the entire sports media landscape.
Based in part on those results, the strategic review of the Tennis Channel is being prompted largely by inbound interest in the network. Sinclair, which purchased the Tennis Channel in 2016 for $350 million, has hired investment bank Moelis & Co. to handle inquiries. Tennis Channel and Sinclair executives declined to comment.
Industry sources said a joint venture or a similar type of equity transaction is a much more probable outcome than an outright sale of the network, as Sinclair will still likely be involved in the distribution of the Tennis Channel.
In any respect, the move could see Sinclair further reduce its profile in sports. Already, its regional sports network subsidiary Diamond Sports Group is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and attempting a three-pronged recovery plan after expectations had previously grown toward an eventual shuttering of that company.
The strategic review of the Tennis Channel is not said to be connected to the DSG situation, or to a $495 million payment that Sinclair will make to DSG as part of a broader legal settlement.
Sinclair’s move also arrives as tennis is potentially on the cusp of transformative change, and as talk continues surrounding the potential creation of a new, premier-level professional tour involving the four majors and other top men’s and women’s tournaments. The Tennis Channel, regardless of its future ownership structure, figures to be a meaningful part of that reimagined competitive format.