Fox Sports Goes to War With Dodgers Owner Over TV Rights

L.A. team attempts to hire Blackstone

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is burning bridges with Fox Sports, which, until recently, had been one of his last remaining supporters in a years-long dispute with Major League Baseball over the team’s finances.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Fox Sports is disputing McCourt’s request to hire Blackstone Group to market the team's media rights. In court papers filed Friday, Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket, the Dodgers’ primary television partner, said that the proposed marketing plan interferes with its current agreement to broadcast Dodgers games through the 2013 season and violates a provision that gives Fox Sports exclusive negotiation rights through November 2012.

Fox Sports has already advanced the fees for the Dodgers’ 2011 television rights, and had previously agreed to a 17-year, $2.7 billion extension to the current broadcast deal that would have allowed the team to avoid a bankruptcy filing. However, MLB commissioner Bud Selig rejected the latter proposal because a portion of a $385 million loan that came with the contract would have gone towards a divorce settlement between McCourt and his ex-wife.

McCourt placed the Dodgers under Chapter 11 protection in June with hopes of selling the team’s TV rights without needing MLB approval. But in order to sell those rights in bankruptcy court, the Dodgers would need to market them to Fox Sports' rivals and possibly hold an auction. Fox Sports said that the process would threaten confidentially agreements, negotiating exclusivity, and the current television deal.

If he is unable to sell the broadcast rights, McCourt could be forced to sell part or all of the team, said the WSJ.