Sports Wars Continue: Time Warner Cable Snatches Dodgers From News Corp.

Move Helps Cable Company Avoid High Rate Increases From Networks

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Time Warner Cable has struck a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to broadcast the Major League Baseball team's games, two people familiar with the matter said.

An announcement of the agreement is imminent, although no deal has been signed yet, said the people, who asked not to be named because the decision isn't yet public. The games will be carried on a new regional sports network developed by Guggenheim Partners, which bought the Dodgers for $2.15 billion last year. Time Warner Cable will be a partner in the project and won't own the television rights outright, the people said.

The Los Angeles Times reported last weekend that the Dodgers were leaning toward a TV deal with Time Warner Cable instead of Fox.

The deal would snatch the rights away from News Corp., the media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, which has been paying about $40 million a year to broadcast the games. The Dodgers negotiated with News Corp.'s Fox and Time Warner Cable for months before reaching an agreement. A lucrative new contract should help add luster to the team, said Lee Berke, head of a sports-focused media consulting firm.

"From a Dodgers standpoint, this puts them at the same rank as the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants," Mr. Berke said. "Valuation is the name of the game. That's what Guggenheim is going to achieve by developing a Dodgers network with Time Warner."

Live sports continues to be one of TV's most expensive sources of content, partly because it remains one of the last bastions against time-shifted viewing and commercial-skipping.

Time Warner Cable signed a 20-year deal with the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, introducing a new regional sports network. Irene Esteves, the cable company's chief financial Officer, said last year that Time Warner Cable is interested in sports rights as a way of avoiding high rate increases from other owners, including Fox and Comcast Corp.

Fox Sports started a business that became known as Prime Ticket to carry the Dodgers in 1997. Fox still has the rights to MLB's Los Angeles Angels, the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, and the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

Fox's deal with the Dodgers expires after the 2013 season. The team had discussed a new deal with Fox last fall, worth at least $6 billion over 25 years, the L.A. Times reported. Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers from Frank McCourt, who put the team into bankruptcy in June after a cash crunch.

Stan Kasten, president of the Dodgers, didn't immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

~Bloomberg News~

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