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Angels owner Arte Moreno says he is interested in purchasing Fox Sports outlets

Angels owner Arte Moreno says he is interested in purchasing Fox Sports outlets
Angels owner Arte Moreno is interested in buying two local Fox Sports outlets to carry the team's games. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers own a television channel that provides year-round coverage of the team, but that channel is unavailable in much of the Los Angeles market.

The Angels soon could get year-round coverage too, on a channel already included on every major cable and satellite provider in town.

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said Monday he is interested in buying the two local Fox Sports outlets — FS West and Prime Ticket — that air his team’s games.

“We would have control of our own TV,” Moreno said. “We could do some things to enhance our brand.”

The development comes at a time when the Angels have revived negotiations with the city of Anaheim about renovating or replacing Angel Stadium. By 2020, when the contract of franchise icon Mike Trout expires, Moreno could persuade him to stay not only by offering the richest deal in team history but by showing how the team could finance sustained success using the revenue generated by owning television stations and, perhaps, shops, restaurants and offices surrounding the ballpark.

However, beyond the career of any one player, Moreno said he is concerned with the long-term health of the franchise.

“I don’t look at what’s going to happen in three years,” he said. “I’m more interested in what’s going to happen in 20 years.”

In 2006, Moreno bought a Spanish-language radio station, eventually converting it to an English-language sports station. He renamed the station KLAA, after he renamed the team the Los Angeles Angels, and anchored its programming with broadcasts of Angels games.

Moreno said he had long considered buying a television channel and making the Angels its anchor.

“I feel, much like our radio, we can pick and choose how we surround ourselves and how we market, and make sure that we can make it affordable for people to continue to communicate with us,” he said, “whether it’s on air, or through cable, or streaming, etc.”

FS West and Prime Ticket are two of the 22 Fox-owned local sports channels put up for sale last year, as a condition of the federal government approving Disney’s purchase of Fox. The Department of Justice had feared Disney might control too much of the sports broadcast market if it were to own ESPN and the local sports channels.

Moreno is not the only potential bidder, and it is unclear whether Disney might be amenable to selling the channels individually.

Liberty Media, the parent company of the Atlanta Braves, is a suitor for the package of channels. Sinclair Broadcasting, a partner in the Chicago Cubs’ fledgling cable channel, is another. Major League Baseball as a whole is involved too, concerned in part that venture capitalists and tech giants might buy the channels in a venture that could be better for investors than for the various teams.

In the Angels’ case, for instance, an outside investor might consider killing FS West or Prime Ticket. Those channels already have lost the Dodgers and Lakers, and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has considered leaving and making his team’s broadcasts streaming-only. If the Angels had to share one channel instead of two, that could jeopardize their visibility in the market and hamper Moreno’s chance to add team-related programming, according to two industry sources that declined to be identified because the bidding process is ongoing.

And, because a Liberty spinoff company owns a 23% stake in Charter Communications, one of those sources said the Angels could fear an eventual deal that would kill FS West or Prime Ticket and move the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA channel, now marketed by Charter, onto the vacated cable channel, already available in just about every home in the Los Angeles area.

Moreno said he has a “very positive” relationship with the city of Anaheim, now that Harry Sidhu has replaced Tom Tait as mayor. In 2013, Tait essentially killed a deal made by city negotiators, under which Moreno would have leased part of the Angel Stadium parking lot for $1 per year, then developed the land and used the revenue to pay for an estimated $150 million in renovations to the stadium.

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The city again is pitching Moreno on the concept of land development, proposing what one city official called an “L.A. Live on steroids” as a way to keep the Angels in town beyond the expiration of their lease in 2020.

Moreno, speaking generally, suggested he would be wary of high-density development that could eat up so much of the parking lot that enormous parking structures could be required.

“Have you ever gone to an event, and you’re three or four stories up in the parking garage, and you want to go home, and you can’t get out?” he said. “We have a unique business. When it’s time to leave, they all leave. It’s not like you’re in a shopping mall, where people come in and out the whole day.

“Parking garages are tough. I’m not telling you that there would never be one. I’m just telling you it should be an alternative piece.”

He expressed concern that at least some of the cost of intense development could fall upon the fans, in increased ticket and/or parking prices. The Dodgers this season are charging $17 in advance and $25 at the gate for general parking. The Angels charge $10 for general parking.

“I don’t want to charge a lot for parking,” he said.

The Angels have not made the postseason in five years and have not won a postseason game in 10 years. Even with Trout, widely regarded as the best player in baseball, the Angels have posted three consecutive losing seasons, for the first time since 1992-94.

They have sold at least 3 million tickets every year since Moreno bought the team in 2003 — only the New York Yankees can match that streak — and he said he did not want to ask those fans to watch a tanking team.

“The fans have been so loyal,” he said. “I didn’t want to say, OK, I’m going to tear this thing down and save some money and rebuild it. I said, let’s try to stay as competitive as we can as we go through the transition.”

In his first move as owner, he lowered the price of ballpark beer. That price remains $4.50, according to a team spokesman.

Said Moreno: “I haven’t changed the price of a 16-ounce beer in 16 years.”

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