Major League Baseball’s commissioner confirmed Friday that the organization is planning to make a play for 21 regional sports networks being sold by Disney — with a focus on the 14 networks that carry MLB team games.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced at the baseball owners’ meeting Friday that he has the support of owners in pursuing the 21st Century Fox RSNs, which Disney is selling as a condition of its $71.3 billion purchase of Fox’s entertainment assets.
“I think I would characterize the discussions among ownership as very supportive of the effort to determine whether we can be a successful bidder,” Manfred said.
As The Post reported on Jan. 31, MLB has teamed up with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to buy the RSNs, which sell sports programming to distributors, including cable television.
MLB is also reaching out to other potential partners, including big cable companies, a source said.
Disney is looking to offload a total of 22 RSNs but one of them — the YES Network — is expected to be picked up by the Yankees separately.
“We’re continuing to talk, continuing to make progress, but nothing’s been done yet,” Yankees Principal Owner Hal Steinbrenner said on buying YES at the same meeting.
“We are still actively engaged in the process. In the last couple of days, we have been in the second-round data room. Additional information is being made available to us,” Manfred said.
MLB could face competition, however, including from billionaire media mogul John Malone — who is also seeking support from MLB team owners for his consolidated bid.
As The Post reported Feb. 6, Malone’s Liberty Media already has the support of the Atlanta Braves, which it owns, as well as of the Minnesota Twins and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
Manfred only needs support from a majority of team owners to move ahead with any deal, sources said.
“I think that ownership sees it as an opportunity for us to take additional control over our content. I think that we recognize that the media landscape is changing quickly and if somebody’s going to manage that changing landscape, we’d just soon that it be us,” Manfred said, referring to the likelihood of more games being streamed.
Disney wanted $20 billion for the RSNs — including YES, which broadcasts Yankee games as well as Brooklyn Nets games — but is not expected to get that much, sources said.
The Fox RSNs broadcast games for 15 of the 30 MLB teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Detroit Tigers, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Miami Marlins.
Disney is selling the RSNs because it also owns ESPN, which threatens to give the combined company too much control over sports broadcasting.
In total, there are five different bidding groups for some or all of the networks, sources said, adding that Disney is willing to sell the RSN package in pieces to get a deal done.
The Department of Justice has told Disney it would likely approve a spinoff of the RSNs, if necessary, sources said.
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