Could Major League Baseball's takeover of the Los Angeles Dodgers' business operations lead to a bidding war for the team's TV rights?
It sounds possible, under a scenario outlined Friday by former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson in an interview with Bloomberg.
Pilson, who said he has no inside knowledge of what could happen, said MLB's not-yet-named trustee for the team could void the team's 20-year broadcasting deal with News Corp.'s Fox, valued between $2.5 and $3 billion.
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"The trustee would take a very serious look at that deal and could very well void it," Neal said. "He may very well think the team can get more money if they put it up for bid."
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has not signed off on the renewed TV deal with Fox. Selig has long worried about Dodger owner Frank McCourt's management of the team's business, and ordered the MLB takeover of the Dodgers affairs.
The Dodgers declined comment Friday on Pilson's scenario. In a statement, Fox said: "We want to be a part of the solution. A financially stable Dodgers team is good for fans, good for Major League Baseball, and good for FOX."
The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times have reported that Fox is worried Time Warner Cable might try to snag the broadcast rights in 2014, after the Dodgers' current deal with Fox's Prime Ticket ends. Fox has already lost the TV rights to the Los Angeles Lakers to Time Warner, which reached a 20-year deal to air the basketball team’s games on two high-definition stations starting in the 2012-13 season.
Frank McCourt is in a fight with soon-to-be-ex-wife Jamie over ownership of the team. The Times and Journal have both reported that Fox became alarmed when McCourt started talking to Time Warner about forming a partnership. (Its exact nature is unclear, but the Journal said it involved a major sponsorship deal, not TV rights. The Times said Time Warner had inquired about naming rights for the team.)
To try to cut off McCourt from Time Warner, the newspapers said, Fox arranged a loan to McCourt. But Selig saw the loan as another red flag and informed McCourt that the league would take over the Dodgers' business operations.