Fox Continues Dodgers TV Talks as Deadline Passes

5:53 PM PST 11/30/2012 by Alex Ben Block

The exclusive negotiating period between the baseball team and the sports network ends Friday, but talks on a complicated $6 billion deal are expected to continue next week.

The deadline for an exclusive 45-day period of negotiations between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Fox Sports ends Friday, but sources say the talks will continue for at least one more week on what is believed to be a 25-year deal that is expected to be valued at more than $6 billion.

The proposed pact for about $240 million a year is said to value the baseball team’s TV rights at about 20 times their current level. The Dodgers currently receive about $29 million a year under a deal with Fox that was for 12 years, with a total value of about $350 million. That deal is up after the 2013 baseball season.

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In theory, the Dodger’s could begin to talk with other potential partners about the broadcast and cable rights to their games, especially Time Warner Cable which is known to be interested in those rights for its two new sports channels. However, sources say it appears unlikely that the Dodgers, deep into complicated talks with Fox, will speak to anyone else in the immediate future.

Other potential bidders waiting in the wings including Comcast, which has a relatively new sports channel that needs content, and even CBS, which has shown an interest in carrying sports.

What complicates the Fox deal is not only the sheer size of the money involved -- which would set a new high-water mark for local sports rights -- but also the possibility the transaction will involve not just cash but also some equity ownership in a Fox cable TV channel such as Prime Ticket that might be dedicated to the Dodgers. This could provide a great branding opportunity for the baseball club to extend its presence throughout the year.

In addition, Fox is said to want the right to include Dodger games at times on a new national sports channel it plans to launch which is tentatively being called Fox One.

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On the Dodger side is the team’s majority owner, Guggenheim Partners, which paid a record $2.15 billion for the team in April. Guggenheim also is said to be interested in doing side deals for related programming that might include its recently acquired Dick Clark Productions and possibly even Prometheus Global Media, owner of The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek and other properties. A spokeswoman for Guggenheim on Friday declined comment.

If the Dodgers and Fox do not finalize a deal by the end of next week, the baseball club will have the right under the existing  contract to make a take it or leave it offer to Fox for the rights. Fox then would have 30 days to respond.

A Fox spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Fox, which historically has shown a willingness to pay record sums for live sports rights in football and baseball, is considered a highly motivated buyer at this point. Having already lost the Los Angeles Lakers and Pac-12 college games to Time Warner Cable, as well as other regional sports to Comcast and others, the Dodgers 160-plus games a year represent a key source of content to feed the existing Fox sports channels and the proposed new national sports channel, which would compete with Disney’s ESPN.

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Fox does have current deals to carry the games of the Los Angeles of Anaheim (baseball), the Los Angeles Clippers (basketball), the Los Angels Kings and Anaheim Ducks (hockey), as well as other college and regional sports.

Fox in November acquired 49 percent of YES Network, which carries the New York Yankees baseball games. That would indicate it would have the Yankees for the new national channel. The addition of the Dodgers would give them two marquee teams.

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