They can’t formally begin talks until Oct. 15, but Fox Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers are said to have started preliminary discussions on a new cable pact. Last year, Fox and former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt struck a 20-year, $3B deal that included a provision giving the Dodgers 30% of the Fox Sports channel. But, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig did not allow that pact to proceed. Citing a source familiar with the current talks, Reuters reports the renewal being discussed since May would “almost certainly exceed” the kiboshed deal and include joint ownership of English and Spanish language channels. According to the Reuters source, no financials have been discussed, but sports consultant Marc Ganis said the new deal could cost $4B or more. Fox and the Dodgers’ current deal expires at the end of next year.
The Dodgers have been spending big on players recently and the talks are thought to be part of the equation. Ganis told Reuters that Stan Kasten, one of the team’s new owners, “is one of the smartest guys in sports. He wanted to make sure he had a long-term TV commitment in the billions before he went out to make those deals.” Fox has a six-week exclusivity window that starts Oct. 15, but should the parties fail to come to an agreement, Time Warner Cable could step in. In June, it was reported the cable giant was eyeing the Dodgers rights to add to its new So. Cal. regional sports networks that launch Oct. 1. “We are hopeful that we will have an opportunity to speak with the new ownership,” TWC Sports president David Rone told Sports Business Daily at the time. The Dodgers were purchased by a consortium in March for $2.15B, a record price for a U.S. sports franchise, and much of the team’s value is wrapped up in the next TV rights deal.