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MEDIA CONGLOMERATES ENTRY INTO BASEBALL: IS VIACOM NEXT?
Published March 23, 1998
The message sent by MLB owners in approving the Dodgers sale to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Group was that "the pluses of having Fox's vast financial resources, as well as its expertise on global television and marketing, outweigh serious potential conflicts," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "You have worries about conflicts. But the returns on Disney, Tribune and Time Warner have been to the contrary. They've been great partners." Giants Exec VP Larry Baer said that "any analysis of a media company owning a team is more positive than negative" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21). In L.A., Thomas Mulligan wrote that media companies "are pushing further into sports ownership in a trend that shows no sign of reversing. ... The biggest motivator in the trends, experts say, is fear of getting locked out of sports." Smith Barney analyst Spencer Gaines said that Cablevision buying the Yankees would be "a preemptive strike against what happened in Los Angeles with ESPN West" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21). In Boston, Peter Gammons wrote to "expect Viacom to be the next media giant to buy into baseball and widen the chasm between the haves and the have-notes" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/23). A N.Y. TIMES editorial dismissed concern over Murdoch's purchase of the Dodgers: "Baseball has always been a business run, with rare exceptions, by proprietors with an aversion to red ink far stronger than their professed loyalty to the traditions, rhythms and solidifying virtues of the game." What matters, "in the end" are "the numbers. ... That is just what mattered to Mr. O'Malley and, if history is a guide, that is all that will matter to Mr. Murdoch" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).