The Los Angeles Dodgers received bankruptcy court permission Thursday to try to sell future TV rights to its baseball games months before their existing contract with Fox Sports allows, Bloomberg reported. The federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware overruled Fox’s objection to the team entering early negotiations with Fox competitors. Fox Sports has broadcasting rights through the 2013 season but was fighting to retain exclusive bidding rights under that contract until Nov. 30, 2012. That contract would have precluded any other bidders prior to that date but the judge’s decision Thursday eliminated that exclusivity. The judge gave Fox 45 days exclusivity to come to a new agreement with the Dodgers. The countdown for that window started November 30. If no deal is reached, Time Warner Cable is eager to jump into the fray. It already won the rights to broadcast Los Angeles Lakers games on a new regional sports network which will replace previous rights holder Fox Sports. Competition for sports programming is driving up prices for rights and allowing early bidding on the Dodgers will likely increase the value of the team in the upcoming sale. The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June with the idea that proceeds from the sale of media rights would be used to pay creditors. Current team owner Frank McCourt intended to retain ownership but Major League Baseball agreed to a sale to get rid of McCourt, whose stewardship has been less than optimal. Fox will appeal the ruling. Meantime, the Dodgers and Fox will try to decide whether negotiations for a new TV contract can begin immediately or must wait pending the network’s appeal of Thursday’s ruling. Whatever the outcome, any sale of TV rights requires the approval of the bankruptcy judge, MLB and the winning bidder for the team.
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