As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers will form their own regional sports network, with an affiliate and advertising helping hand from Time Warner Cable.
Guggenheim Partners, the group that purchased the Dodgers last year for a record $2.15 billion, in December formed American Media Productions, LLC, which today in a press release announced that SportsNet LA, the new RSN home for the club, will launch with the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
For its part, Time Warner Cable has reached a long-term deal to become SportsNet LA’s charter distributor, carrying the service throughout Southern California and Hawaii. Moreover, in return for agreeing to make payments over the life of the deal, the nation’s No. 2 cable operator will serve as the exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent for the RSN and will have certain branding and programming rights. TWC will also provide certain non-game production and technical services to AMP.
The agreement with TWC is subject to certain closing conditions. Additional terms were not disclosed, but published reports place the value of the deal, spanning some 20 to 25 years, at between $7 billion to $8 billion. That would make it the most lucrative local TV deal in history. TWC, which has some 2 million homes in Dodgers territory, will reportedly pick up the network's monthly subscriber fee if other distributor's don't carry the service, which could carry a license north of $4 per month.
The Dodgers' rights have been held since 1997 by Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket RSN, which will televise the club’s games in 2013. The launch of the Dodgers RSN marks the second time that Fox has lost marquee local sports program in LA: Time Warner Cable also wrested Los Angeles Lakers rights from FS West and KCAL-TV and has launched a pair of networks, centering on the storied NBA franchise, including the nation’s first dedicated Spanish-language RSN.
In addition to being the exclusive local home for all of the Dodger games, SportsNet LA also will provide comprehensive behind-the-scenes programming for the team, featuring more insights, analysis and commentary about the team than ever available before, according to AMP.
AMP was advised by Evolution Media Capital and Guggenheim Securities and the law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell, Foley & Lardner, O’Melveny & Myers, and Winston & Strawn. TWC was advised by Desser Sports Media and by the law firms Covington & Burling, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and Holland & Hart.
“We are delighted to support the Dodgers and their ownership group in their launch of SportsNet LA. The Dodgers have one of the most passionate and loyal audiences in sports, and we look forward to helping deliver this new network to their fans,” said Time Warner Cable Sports president David Rone, who previously worked for Evolution Media Capital, in a statement. “This deal, like our Lakers’ deal, furthers our efforts to attain greater certainty and control over local and regional sports programming costs.”
Mark Walter, chairman of the Dodgers, said, “We concluded last year that the best way to give our fans what they want - more content and more Dodger baseball - was to launch our own network. The creation of AMP will provide substantial financial resources over the coming years for the Dodgers to build on their storied legacy and bring a world championship home to Los Angeles. Just as we are actively transforming the team and the stadium, we want the Dodgers to be exhibited on the very best sports network in the country - one that will provide an unrivaled fan experience.”
Added Todd Boehly, a principal owner of AMP: “We are greatly pleased that Time Warner Cable, the largest distributor in the marketplace, has come aboard to support the Dodgers and SportsNet LA as our charter distributor. Their presence in Los Angeles will be invaluable in helping us serve Dodger fans and our community with excellence.”