Time Warner Cable, News Corp. Face Off Over L.A. Dodgers

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After showdowns on an iPad app and retransmission fees, the industry giants are also competing for L.A. TV sports supremacy.

NEW YORK – The L.A. Dodgers are the reason for the latest showdown between Time Warner Cable and News Corp./Fox, according to reports in the LA Times and Wall Street Journal

Fox drew criticism from Major League Baseball, which took control of the franchise earlier this week, for agreeing to lend Dodgers owner Frank McCourt $30 million for the team's payroll.

Fox's motivation was at least in part to keep TW Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable operator, from developing a relationship with the Dodgers, the papers said. After all, TW Cable could try to make a play for the TV rights to the team when a current deal expires in 2014. The cable giant recently struck a deal for the LA Lakers rights starting in the 2012-13 season, beating out News Corp./Fox, a current Lakers rights holder.

Fox and the Dodgers earlier this month agreed on a 20-year deal worth about $2.5 billion that would have kept the franchise with Fox through 2033. However, MLB didn’t immediately approve the deal to prevent McCourt from using some of the money to buy out his soon-to-be ex-wife, the Journal said.

According to the paper, Fox executives found out late last week that McCourt was also getting close to a major sponsorship deal - separate from the Dodgers’ TV rights - with TW Cable. The focus of the deal wasn’t immediately clear, but the LA Times said TW Cable inquired about a potential naming-rights deal with the Dodgers.

When News Corp. sold the team to McCourt and his wife Jamie, their deal included a clause that allows Fox to match any competing offer for the TV rights to the Dodgers, the LA Times said. But it suggested that the loss of the Lakers down the line seems to have started a battle for TV sports supremacy in LA between News Corp./Fox and TW Cable.

News Corp. also recently put up a fight when TW Cable put Fox News and FX on its iPad application, which allows live streaming TV. The two resolved the situation.

The two companies also had a showdown over a retransmission consent fee deal for Fox TV stations in late 2009.