Britt: TWC Would Look at Additional Sports Rights for RSN


With the launch of its two regional sports networks in Los Angeles anticipated in the fourth quarter, Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt told analysts the cable giant would look at acquiring additional team rights as they become available - including those of the Los Angeles Dodgers - but added he did not expect much to step to the plate.
Time Warner Cable reached a 20-year deal for rights to the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers in February 2011, which will anchor two regional sports networks for the cable operator (one a dedicated Spanish language channel). The RSNs, slated to launch in the fourth quarter, have also acquired additional sports rights from Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy and the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks.
Speculation was high that the cable giant may try to acquire rights - or even buy an equity stake - in Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers, after the team was sold for a record $2.15 billion to a group led by hedge fund Guggenheim Partners and including basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
On a conference call with analysts to discuss first quarter results, Britt said that the cable giant was open to acquiring additional rights, but that he suspected most teams are locked into agreements with other parties for the foreseeable future.
Britt stressed that the objective of launching the networks is to stabilize costs and make them more consistent over a long period of time.
"Where rights come available, as they did with the Lakers, if we think we can buy them for a price that makes sense for us over the long run, we'll do that," Britt said. "I don't anticipate there's going to be tons of those. Most of the sports rights are tied up for many, many years to come. But we'll look at other things that come up. Obviously there has been a lot of press around the sale of the Dodgers. Who knows what might happen with their media rights? If those become available and are offered to us, we'll take a look at them."
Currently the Dodger rights are held by Fox Sports' Prime Ticket RSN through 2013, but Fox has an exclusive 45-day negotiating window with the team through Nov. 30. After that, rights to Dodger games are up for grabs, and the team's options include extending their deal with Fox, selling them to another third party or launching their own RSN, akin to the YES Network owned in part by the New York Yankees. Some sports observers expect the team to take the latter option.
Having baseball would be an advantage for the Time Warner Cable RSNs, giving it a full year of sports programming, but the price may be too high. When the Dodger sale was announced, some analysts estimated that media rights for the team could be worth as much as $4 billion over 20 years.