Fox speaks out about Time Warner Cable and Dodgers
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You can tell a fight is getting ugly when the companies involved stop hiding behind anonymous quotes and come right out and say what’s on their minds -- on the record.
That’s what is starting to happen with Fox Sports and Time Warner Cable in their battle to see who will end up with the television rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fox’s Prime Ticket currently has the Dodgers, and Time Warner Cable wants them for its new regional sports network, which is launching next year.
Under scrutiny is a 2004 contract Fox Sports signed with the Dodgers to carry the baseball team’s games on its Prime Ticket cable channel. The contract contains a provision that prohibits the team from creating its own channel in partnership with Time Warner, Comcast or Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN should it decide to discontinue its relationship with Fox Sports when the current pact expires.
The deal under the current contract, which runs to 2013, will peak at a value of nearly $40 million a year. A new deal could double that annual figure.
At the time the contract was signed, Time Warner Cable was still part of the entertainment giant Time Warner Inc. In 2009, it was spun off into a stand-alone company and does not feel that the 2004 provision applies to it and its regional sports network (RSN).
Fox, part of News Corp., begs to differ and is now speaking publicly about it.
“The contract, which was written in 2004, states the Dodgers are restricted in partnering with ‘Time Warner’ in an RSN and both sides have always, up to today, acted consistently with the understanding of the meaning that Time Warner Cable is restricted from making a media rights deal with the Dodgers,’ Fox Sports spokesman Chris Bellitti said.
The subject of the contract came up in a hearing Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where Fox lost a fight to stop the Dodgers from selling a new TV deal along with the team. A Dodger lawyer suggested that the team was able to strike a deal with anyone it pleased, which Fox is still disputing.
‘For their lawyer to indicate otherwise is revisionist history designed to mislead prospective buyers into thinking the Dodgers are unfettered in making a media rights deal with whomever they choose,” Bellitti said.
While Fox is charging the mound, Time Warner Cable is still staying in the dugout. For now.
-- Joe Flint