Update: News Corp. closing in on deal for YES stake

Nov. 19th: News Corp. would acquire 49% of YES in the transaction according to Richard Sandomir and Amy Chozick, but there would be the option to increase their stake to as much as 80% in 3-5 years. I can’t help but wonder if that option is an indication that the Steinbrenners have their eye on selling the club down the line. The network, meanwhile, is worth a bit more than $3 billion, meaning it is likely more valuable than the team itself. In-freakin’-sanity.

Nov. 15th: Via Matthew Futterman: News Corp. is closing in on a deal to purchase a minority stake in the YES Network. They have their eye on the nearly 40% share currently owned by long-time investors Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity Partners. The Yankees own about one-third of the network and aren’t selling any portion of their share.

Last month we learned that the team was looking for investors to buy out Goldman and Providence. News Corp. is a monster, the world’s second largest media group in terms of revenue. They have stakes in FOX, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal among many other media outlets. Futterman says YES is likely to raise the monthly fees (which currently lag behind other regional networks) it receives from cable providers when their contracts expire in the coming years. In other words, the deal will make the Yankees a ton of money and your cable bill might be slightly higher in the future. Business as usual, really.

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Yankees seeking new ownership for the YES Network

Via Richard Sandomir: The Yankees are looking for investors to buy out their YES Network ownership partners. The team is not selling its stake — Yankee Global Enterprises owns about one-third of the network — but is looking for purchasers to buy stakes currently held by Goldman Sachs, Providence Equity, and others.

“We want to keep our options open and see what the marketplace is … It’s important to find out what the price would be out in the marketplace and if there is someone comfortable with paying it,” said team president Randy Levine, who recently met with FOX executives along with Hal Steinbrenner and Goldman Sachs partner Gerald Cardinale. Investors like Goldman usually flip their stakes in companies after a few years, but they’ve stuck with YES because the network is a money-making machine. The Yankees went through a similar process back in 2007.

YES names Meredith Marakovits new clubhouse reporter

Via Joel Sherman, the YES Network has named Meredith Marakovits their new clubhouse reporter. As we learned in January, Kim Jones has decided to pursue other opportunities and will not be back.

Marakovits previously worked as an anchor for SNY and covered the Yankees for 1050 ESPN Radio in 2010. She’s also been a sideline reporter for the Philadelphia 76ers, covered the Phillies as a beat writer for 950 ESPN Radio, and contributed to WFAN in the past. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_Marakovits.

Once again, YES tops regional spots network ratings list

For the ninth year in a row, the YES Network was the most-watched regional sports network in the country in terms of total day delivery in its home market. That’s a fancy way of saying more New Yorkers watched YES every day in 2011 than any other city watched its regional network(s). You can click through for all the stats, but I’ll save you time by saying they basically blew everyone out of the water. They were first overall by a wide margin.

And just for the record, we are taking full credit for that 52% increase in YESNetwork.com traffic. What’d you think that banner up there was for, aesthetics?

Biz Round-Up: Sweet Lou returns, MLB rule changes

Report: Lou Piniella set to join YES Network team

An old familiar face is getting ready to return to the Yankee family. One-time Yankee player and manager Lou Piniella will be rejoining the Yankees as a spring training instructor and YES Network analyst, Bob Raissman of The Daily News reported yesterday. Piniella, who served as a San Francisco Giants’ consultant last year, wanted to stay in baseball but also wanted to be close to his home in Tampa. The Yanks were the perfect fit.

According to Raissman’s report, Piniella will do “a limited number of appearances” on YES. The News scribe expects the former skipper to be in the booth come Opening Day in the Trop, and he’ll do a handful of other series throughout the season. The Piniella deal isn’t final yet, but a YES Network spokesperson confirmed to Bryan Hoch that the two sides were working toward a contract. It’ll be good to hear Sweet Lou, who served in the MSG broadcast booth in 1989, back on TV.

Rule tweaks dominate new MLB Basic Agreement

Later this week, the MLB Owners will ratify the new Major League Baseball Basic Agreement, and as the Players Association approved it today, it will become the law of the baseball land. We’ve heard a lot about the changes to the luxury tax, the amateur draft and international spending. Now, courtesy of the Associated Press, we learn about the myriad minor rule changes as well.

Many of these rule changes are common-sense. The Yankees, who should have played the Wild Card Rays this year in the playoffs but did not, would under a rule that allows teams from the same division to meet in the Division Series. MLB, as was reported earlier this fall, will expand instant replay to include “trapped” catches and some more fair/foul calls. The All Star Break will now be four days, and the game may move to Wednesday beginning in 2013 as well.

For players, MLB has banned tattoos with corporate logos and obscene nicknames written on equipment that may be visible to fans at the stadium or at home. Furthermore, David Ortiz will no longer be allowed to whine about his RBI total as players are banned from requesting scoring changes from the official scorer. Only MLB may hear an appeal now.

My favorite new rule change concerns uniforms though. Here’s how the AP describes it:

Quick uniform number switches will be a thing of the past. Players must tell the commissioner’s office by July 31 of the preceding year if they want a new jersey. That is, unless “the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number.” As in, every replica jersey, jacket, T-shirt, mug and anything else with a number that’s anywhere in stock.

How utterly vindictive.

Finally, one popular team practice has been eliminated as well: Clubs may no longer summon Minor Leaguers to the Majors without activating them. In other words, no more will top prospects be allowed to watch the rest of the regular season unfold in late September from the bench. The Yanks have done this in the past with their youngsters ranging from Derek Jeter to Jesus Montero and beyond. All told, though, these rule changes seem fairly reasonable to me.

YES, DirecTV stave off blackout for now

As YES and DirecTV continue to negotiate a renewal deal, the Yankees’ network will not pull its signal from DirecTV until at least Thursday, the YES Network announced this morning. While the package deal expired yesterday, the two sides have agreed to extend their negotiating deadline until Thursday, April 7. The YES Network, a RAB partner, said it granted the extension “in order to continue negotiating with the goal of reaching a new agreement.” Today’s game is on FOX but the next five games are on YES. We will continue to follow this story.