The Dodgers may be sitting out the postseason but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of activity going on at Chavez Ravine.
On Monday, the Dodgers and News Corp.'s Fox Sports enter a 45-day window to try to negotiate a new TV deal. If the talks are not successful, it could clear the way for Time Warner Cable, which earlier this month launched its own local sports channel here, to make a run at the team.
Currently, the Dodgers are on Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket regional sports network. That agreement expires at the end of next season, but it’s typical in sports to sign new deals at least a year before the current one ends. Fox Sports currently pays about $40 million per season for the Dodgers.
Most observers expect the Dodgers to look for a big payday. Guggenheim Partners, the new majority owner of the Dodgers, shelled out $2.15 billion for the team and one of the key reasons for the high price tag is the belief that the local television rights are undervalued.
Fox had made an offer of $3 billion for 20 years to previous Dodgers owner Frank McCourt that was ultimately rejected by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
Keeping the Dodgers is key for Fox, which besides Prime Ticket also owns the Fox Sports West regional sports channel in L.A. Time Warner Cable already dealt Fox Sports West a big blow when it snagged the rights to the Lakers. If the Dodgers went to Time Warner Cable or if the team decided to start its own channel (another possibility) it would be a big hit to the bottom line of Fox’s Los Angeles sports operations.
Although the exclusive window starts next week, Fox and the Dodgers have already had some preliminary negotiations about a new deal. Even if Fox doesn’t emerge with an agreement, that doesn’t mean it’s out of the running. Before the Dodgers can shop its rights, it has to make an offer to Fox. If Fox passes then the rights can go on the open market.
Then things could get interesting.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.