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Time Warner mulling stake in Dodgers?

Los Angeles DodgersTime Warner is reportedly looking at investing in the Los Angeles Dodgers to gain a competitive advantage in landing the team’s television rights.

Dow Jones is reporting that the move would be made to nullify a small advantage Fox Sports has in retaining the team’s television rights: Fox’s current deal with the team gives it an exclusive negotiating period, as well as a limited right to match any deal. Time Warner has bet big on sports in the Los Angeles area, launching two cable networks and acquiring TV rights to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, and officials there have made no bones about their desire to land the Dodgers after the Fox deal ends in 2013.

The Dodgers could also partner with a Fox or a Time Warner in launching their own cable network, a la the New York Yankees and YES.

The sale of TV rights was a big factor in the purchase of the team: though Guggenheim Baseball Management paid a record amount for a North American sports franchise, the financial assumption is that there’s future profit by unlocking assets, and media rights are a big part of that equation.

The maneuvering adds intrigue to a Dodgers sale expected to be approved today, with Guggenheim Baseball Management buying the team, Dodger Stadium and other assets for $2.15 billion. Too much maneuvering might be a bad thing: in recent years issues in the front office overshadowed the action on the field, leaving many fans to conclude Frank and Jamie McCourt were more interested in financially benefiting from their leveraged ownership than putting together a competitive squad. The Dodgers are off to their best start since 1981 at 6-1 after sweeping Pittsburgh, but the attendance figures for the first series — 28,328 tickets sold for yesterday’s game, far fewer fans in the seats — shows the public needs a high level of wooing to return to Chavez Ravine.


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