A U.S. Bankruptcy judge today set December 7 to kick off a two-day hearing about whether the Los Angeles Dodgers can begin marketing the team’s lucrative future local TV rights, which Fox Sports holds through the end of the 2013 baseball season. Fox already has sued the Dodgers to block any early rights sale. The network claims its regional network has an exclusive window to renegotiate a new deal as part of its current contract, and that that team is using bankruptcy protection to break that agreement. (As part of that lawsuit, Fox will ask Judge Kevin Gross to dismiss the team’s bankruptcy altogether in a hearing set for December 27.) How valuable are those TV rights? Soon-to-be-ex-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt at one time had a $3 billion deal with Fox in place before it was rejected by Major League Baseball and commissioner Bud Selig, forcing McCourt to seek bankruptcy for the team and eventually agree to sell the franchise outright.
Sports Report: NFL Thursday TV Package In Play; Dodgers Anger Ally Fox Sports; NBA Lockout Hits The Courts
The NFL is shopping an eight-game Thursday primetime TV package, with commissioner Roger Goodell having informal conversations with networks last week, according to the Sports Business Journal, which is reporting that a stake in the league’s NFL Network might be in play for the winning bidder. The talks are expected to gain momentum now that the league-imposed lockout is over. The NFL Network currently has rights to eight late-season Thursday NFL games; the new package will cover the early season. The SBJ says Turner and Comcast would be front-runners, especially since they have cut previous deals that included league-owned assets (Turner pacted with the NBA in 2007; Comcast has a similar deal with the NHL). Fox and ESPN also are expected to be interested in the package. …
Last week, Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt agreed to a plan for a divorce settlement that would have given Frank McCourt sole ownership of the franchise — if Major League Baseball approved a lucrative TV deal that McCourt struck with Fox. That multiyear deal worth $3 billion (and, more importantly, $385 million upfront) would help McCourt shore up the Dodgers, who right now are being controlled by the league during all of this divorce mess. Well, baseball commissioner Bud Selig always seemed reluctant to OK the Fox contract, and today Selig made it official by rejecting the deal, saying in part that “the transaction is structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt.” Ouch. Under terms of the divorce plan, it means the Dodgers are one step closer to being sold off — the assets would be split 50-50 between Frank and Jamie — unless Frank can find some other way to get a massive amount of money together to play his players’ monthly salaries and restore the league’s faith in him as an owner. Here’s Selig’s statement: