Will Lakers TV mean an end to McCourt's DTV? [UPDATED]
Frank and Jamie McCourt have been unable to resolve their divorce in part because she wants a share of the Dodgers' future television revenues as part of any settlement. The Dodgers' contract with Fox expires in 2013.
Beyond then, according to court documents, Frank McCourt had intended to launch cable channels dubbed "DTV: Dodger Television" in English and Spanish, enabling the team to more than triple its annual television revenue if projections held true.
That plan was seriously jeopardized on Monday, when the Lakers announced two cable channels of their own, in a partnership with Time Warner that would include "the nation's first Spanish-language regional sports network."
Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch declined to comment on how the Lakers' announcement might impact the Dodgers' television plans. However, two sports industry consultants said what the Dodgers might have lost in financial upside could be somewhat mitigated with the newfound leverage of more sports channels in town.
"It opens up a heck of a lot more what-ifs," said Andy Dolich, a former top executive with the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Memphis Grizzlies.
McCourt still could pursue DTV, although local cable and satellite operators might balk at adding a Dodgers-themed channel, since subscribers might balk at paying for DTV, the Lakers channels, Fox Sports West and Fox's Prime Ticket.
The Lakers, however, just provided McCourt with additional leverage. Until Monday, the Dodgers could say to Fox, "If you don't offer us enough money to renew our deal, we'll start our own channel." Now the Dodgers can say to Fox, "If you don't offer us enough, we can start our own channel or move our games to the Lakers channel."
Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., said the Dodgers' best financial option would have been to partner with the Lakers and share equity in creating what he said would have been "the No. 1 RSN in the market." (The Dodgers did approach the Lakers about that possibility, according to one industry source who declined to be identified. Rawitch declined to comment.)
The Dodgers still could sell their broadcast rights to the Lakers and Time Warner, Dolich said, since baseball games would help fill summer air time on the new channel.
"To me, that's logical," Dolich said.
However, since the loss of the Lakers and Dodgers would deprive Fox of arguably its two most valuable sports properties, Ganis said Fox might make the Dodgers an enormously lucrative contract offer.
"I think it is more likely they'll do something with Fox," Ganis said, "maybe even an equity venture."
That, of course, would put the proverbial ball back in the court of Commissioner Bud Selig. With attorneys suggesting McCourt could finance a divorce settlement and retain control of the Dodgers by signing a new deal with Fox, the commissioner has signaled he might not approve any deal in which Fox would throw McCourt a financial lifeline.
[Updated at 9:52 a.m.: Jim Gordon of Time Warner clarifies that the Lakers have no equity stake in the new channels. Time Warner will own and operate them.]
-- Bill Shaikin