Chase Carey said back in November that News Corp had no interest in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that appears to have changed. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Fox has signed a nondisclosure agreement that allows it to bid to purchase the team. According to WSJ, Fox would seek a 15%-20% minority interest only — it doesn’t want to own the team outright, like it did from 1998-2004 — in a move designed to give it leverage over lucrative local TV rights. Currently, Fox Sports’ regional Prime Ticket network has exclusive rights through the end of next season, and just settled a lawsuit with the Dodgers, who wanted to shorten that exclusivity window to force a bidding war for TV rights, which could be worth as much as $3 billion. That monster number is at the heart of what will be a wild bidding process to buy the team, with that potential windfall driving up the price of what any new owner (and there are many lining up to bid) will have to pay to purchase the team from owner Frank McCourt. Those initial offers from those numerous ownership groups are due January 23.
Fox’s move also could be seen as a hedge against regional rival Time Warner Cable getting into the TV rights scrum. TWC is looking for programming for its new English- and Spanish-language sports channels that have the Los Angeles Lakers locked in as its flagship tenant. Adding the Dodgers to that roster would make a powerful one-two punch while simultaneously slugging Prime Ticket in the gut. To date, TWC has not publicly confirmed its interest in the team or the TV rights.