Fox Sweating McCourt Divorce
Cable TV rights are in limbo as the uncertainty surrounding the Dodgers threatens its dominance of L.A. market.
Could the chaos surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers claim Fox Sports as its victim? The baseball team Sept. 16 asked a Delaware bankruptcy court to void the final two years of the team's TV contract so it can strike a more lucrative arrangement. The current Fox Sports deal, set to expire in 2013, pays $45 million a year; a new one could nearly quadruple that. Most observers believe that without the quick influx of cash, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt -- embroiled in a nasty, expensive divorce from wife Jamie -- will be forced to sell the team. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wants him out as Dodgers owner (MLB rejected a 17-year, $3 billion extension of the current Fox deal), and Fox is expected to oppose Frank McCourt's latest legal move because it opens the door for a competitor such as Time Warner or Comcast to swoop in and nab the Dodgers rights. With the Lakers leaving Fox Sports in time for the 2012-13 NBA season to form their own sports network with Time Warner, Fox desperately needs the Dodgers to maintain its dominance of the lucrative Southern California market. But it must tread carefully to avoid alienating McCourt, with whom it might still have to negotiate a new deal. "The one thing that is clear," says USC sports business professor David Carter, "is that Fox is adamant that it has the hold on those rights."