Fox Sports keeps eye on Dodgers

Cabler awaits TV pact as MLB takes over team

News of Major League Baseball’s takeover of the business operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers comes as no surprise to its local TV partner, Fox Sports West. But it does present a few possible complications.

Fox Sports is awaiting MLB approval of a new long-term TV rights pact with the league. Approval of the deal is expected, but MLB’s takeover may delay the process as league officials get a better handle on the team’s shaky finances.

There’s a strong possibility that MLB will force current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to sell the team, which could mean that a new owner would seek to negotiate a new rights pact from scratch. However, as the Dodgers’ longtime local partner, Fox Sports West undoubtedly will be well-positioned to land a deal.

Fox Sports parent News Corp. made headlines last week by making a $30 million loan to McCourt, reportedly to help cover the team’s payroll. That agreement was described by insiders as a private transaction between News Corp. and McCourt and not related to any existing or future business between the team and Fox Sports.

However, it’s understood that News Corp. was motivated to open its wallet for McCourt by the threat of Time Warner Cable coming in with big bucks for a sponsorship deal that the Dodgers reportedly floated as the team’s financial position deteriorated.

Time Warner Cable has emerged as a local sports competitor of Fox Sports West following its 20-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to create a dedicated Lakers cabler starting with the 2012-13 NBA season.

Fox Sports declined comment Thursday on the MLB’s move and its impact on the Dodgers’ TV rights.

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