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Disney Suing Fox Over Angels’ Deal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Walt Disney Co.-controlled Angels want out of their cable contract with Fox Sports West, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

A lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court claims Fox, formerly Prime Ticket Networks, is underpaying the Anaheim baseball team for televising its games. The suit is the latest of several courthouse battles between Murdoch and Disney.

In the complaint charging breach of contract, the Angels allege Fox Sports West is paying far more for broadcasts of Dodger games and is giving other more favorable conditions to the Los Angeles team.

The suit alleges the Angels have unfairly been denied information about the Fox-Dodgers contract, after reading published reports about it. As a result, the Angels want their contract canceled or hefty reparations. The Angel suit says they are guaranteed higher fees under a clause in their 1993 contract if Fox, then Prime Ticket, signed a more lucrative contract with another team.

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Fox Sports West will televise 32 Angel games this season, and Fox Sports West 2 will televise 40 Dodger games.

It is the fourth lawsuit between the two media giants involving Southern California sports teams, fueling speculation that Disney does not want Murdoch to profit from telecasting games of Disney-owned teams.

The Angels’ lawsuit was filed the day after Murdoch announced a deal to create a sports cable behemoth that could rival Disney’s ESPN, stitching together 17 regional cable sports channels under the Fox banner. Fox Sports West sued the Angels and Disney in April, claiming they were trying to unlawfully breach the cable station’s contract to televise the games. That suit, in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges Fox has a contract with the Angels through 1999.

In separate actions, the Mighty Ducks, also owned by Disney, filed suit against Fox for moving their telecasts from Fox Sports West to Fox Sports West 2, which was not then available in Orange County, where the NHL team is based.

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Fox countered with an antitrust lawsuit against Disney, ESPN, and the Ducks, claiming they conspired to lock Fox Sports West out of local cable markets, including Orange County.

No one from Disney or Fox was available for comment Monday. David Eisen, an attorney with Arnold & Porter of Los Angeles, one of two firms that filed the most recent lawsuit, said he could not comment without speaking to his clients first, and that it was Disney’s policy not to comment on legal matters.


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