Fox claims harm in early negotiations for Dodgers rights


Fox Sports, which continues to seek to block the early sale of the LA Dodgers media rights, told a federal judge it is harmed every time the company is forced to negotiate with the bankrupt Major League Baseball team.

The network was in court in Wilmington, DE 12/22 seeking to persuade U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark to temporarily halt the Dodgers’ effort to sell the TV rights months early. The judge agreed and ordered a stay to negotiations, and scheduled a hearing on the matter for next month.

Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket division is appealing a decision by a bankruptcy court judge to let the Dodgers begin soliciting offers for the TV rights in January, about 10 months earlier than under the contract between the team and the network. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross in Wilmington, DE made that ruling on 12/8, overruling Fox’s objection to letting the team negotiate with Fox’s competitors early. The TV rights could be worth about $100 million a year, a consultant for Fox said in court.

“We are injured every time we have to sit down and negotiate,” Fox attorney Catherine L. Steege said in court.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is selling the team, which filed for bankruptcy in June. To increase the value of the franchise, the Dodgers are soliciting separate offers for the rights to televise future games, which Fox holds through next year.

The Dodgers and their creditors argued in court that Fox couldn’t be harmed simply by talking to the team.

Stark has ordered a halt to all efforts to sell rights, and will listen to the Fox appeal 1/12/12. According to a Los Angeles Times report, he believes that the sale of future broadcast rights will have little bearing on the sale of the team, which McCourt has promised to divest by 4/30/12. The edge, according to Stark’s comments, appears to lie with Fox.

RBR-TVBR observation: We can see some injury here. Every meeting takes time out of the Fox Sports executives’ day; every meeting costs billable attorney hours; every meeting could leak out confidential programming, advertising and scheduling information to competitors.