Angels -- not Dodgers -- close to new TV deal with Fox?
As Dodgers owner Frank McCourt seeks the intervention of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to pursue a new television contract for his team, the Angels could be nearing a lucrative deal of their own with Fox Sports.
And, with the Texas Rangers one victory away from their second consecutive World Series, the Angels could be close to securing billions of dollars to use in fighting back against their American League West rivals.
In a court filing this week on behalf of Major League Baseball, Los Angeles sports media consultant Ed Desser said the Dodgers would be unlikely to succeed in launching a cable channel of their own, in part because they would not have "any other significant sports team" to join them. He noted that the Lakers are launching two channels of their own, the Pac-12 Conference is launching another for UCLA and USC, and the Kings and Clippers are bound to Fox.
"The Los Angeles Angels are expected to close a new transaction," Desser said in the filing.
Desser declined to elaborate when reached by telephone, and spokesmen for both Fox and the Angels declined to comment.
However, Fox and the Angels have had dialogue about a new deal for an extended period of time, according to parties familiar with the conversations but not authorized to discuss them. No deal is imminent, the parties said.
With Fox losing the Lakers and potentially losing the Dodgers, the Angels have the leverage to command a deal in excess of the 20-year, $1.6-billion contract to which Fox and the Rangers agreed last year.
That deal averages $80 million per year. The Angels' current contract with Fox, which extends through the 2015 season, averages $50 million per year.
The Angels also would be likely to get an ownership share in Fox Sports West. The Rangers' new deal does not include an ownership stake in its Fox Sports affiliate.
In the proposed Dodgers' contract rejected by Commissioner Bud Selig, the team would have gotten an ownership share in Prime Ticket as well as average annual rights fees in excess of what the Rangers got. McCourt valued the entire deal -- the annual rights fees and the ownership share in Prime Ticket -- at $3 billion.
McCourt now has asked the Bankruptcy Court to let him auction the Dodgers' television rights, with MLB and Fox in opposition. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross is scheduled to consider the issue -- as well as the league's request that he order the sale of the Dodgers -- during a four-day hearing set to start Oct. 31.
Desser, the founding president of NBA TV and former chief television negotiator for the NBA, could be an expert witness for MLB. In his filing, he argued that the Dodgers would be best served by waiting to sell their television rights rather than auctioning them off at this time and dismissed the Dodgers' claims that the market might be at its peak now.
"Based on industry trends, I believe [the Dodgers] might be able to get 10[%]-20% more for the media rights if they wait a year or two," Desser said.
Desser said he led negotiations for the Lakers for their new channels with Time Warner Cable. Although the Dodgers said interested bidders for their rights could include Charter, Dish Network and DirecTV, Desser said that none of those entities showed interest in the Lakers and that the bidders for the Dodgers likely would be limited to Fox and Time Warner.
He also said the specter of litigation could "chill" the bidding, noting that Fox already has sued the Dodgers for breaching their current contract. He also said potential bidders would consider "team performance, attendance, public sentiment and TV ratings trends" in deciding how much to offer the Dodgers.
"Now is not the time to sell the media rights, when their value will be depressed by the current poor condition of the club," Desser said.
In a filing last week, the Dodgers said the condition of the club was strong, citing in part stadium renovations and attendance increases through 2008 and four playoff appearances in McCourt's first six years of management.
"Although the Dodgers did not make the playoffs in 2011, the team's 82-79 record was an improvement over 2010," the filing read. "The current roster includes numerous players from the team's farm system, including players in contention for both the National League Most Valuable Player award and the National League Cy Young award."
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Angels players celebrate a win with Mike Scioscia on Sept. 18. Credit: Steve Ruark / Getty Images.