Time Warner Cable, not Fox Sports/Prime Ticket, will emerge aligned with the Dodgers in a new cable TV partnership starting in 2014 — but only to help the team launch its own channel, sources reported to Bloomberg News this morning.
No deal has been signed — rumors are that it was in the $7 billion range, making it the most expensive local TV deal in history — but an announcement officially could come as soon as Thursday.
Neither the Dodgers’ Guggenheim Partners nor Time Warner Cable commented on the reports.
Several things could delay the official announcement, including new reports that Fox/Prime Ticket has the right to match any Time Warner offer. The Sports Business Daily reported from its sources that “certain back-end rights” could be in place, “depending on the specifics of the contract.” SBD said one of the holdups in the Dodgers and TWC finalizing a deal last week was “trying to craft a deal that would get around Fox’s right to match.” The SBD report said Fox could match “a straight rights deal or any deal that gives TWC an equity interest in a new channel. Matching rights would not kick in if the Dodgers launch a channel on their own and get TWC to agree to carry it with no equity stake.”
Prime Ticket had whipped up a deal in the neighborhood of $6 billion for 25 years, according to reports that leaked out in late November, hoping that when word of it got out, it would be taken as a serious player in trying to extend a partnership that has lasted more than a decade. Prime Ticket had first rights to renegotiate its deal that will expire after the upcoming season.
Time Warner was able to join the negotiations when the Prime Ticket exclusive window expired in November and talks dragged on.
The immediate problem for the Dodgers will be to find channel space if it ventures off into it’s own. Time Warner Cable recently created the TWC SportsNet and Deportes channels when it obtained the long-term rights to the Lakers (as well as the Galaxy and Sparks), and then saw the anticipated growing pains of trying to get other cable and dish systems to pay as much as $3.95 per subscriber per month to carry it.
The Dodgers’ defection to Time Warner would also be another huge blow to Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket, losing both its anchor tenants and programming content providers in the matter of two seasons.