SBD/November 18, 2011/Media

TWC Sports' David Rone Says Acquiring MLS Galaxy Rights Crucial For Channels

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Rone said Galaxy games will be produced for TWC's two new RSNs
Time Warner Cable Sports' 10-year, $55M deal for rights to the MLS Galaxy will be made official later Friday at a press conference in L.A. Time Warner Cable Sports President David Rone said the MLS games will be produced for the two new RSNs, which will be called Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. "Soccer, in general, is becoming more and more prevalent in the States," Rone said. "Spring and summer programming, which we're in the process of building out; a relationship with AEG; and resonance with the Hispanic community: all of that comes together and it creates enormous value for our networks." When asked about other rights that interest TWC, Rone said the Dodgers were at the top of his wish list. "If we had the opportunity, we would be highly desirous in acquiring the media rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers," he said. "My interest hasn't waned."

Q: Why does the Galaxy deal make sense for you?
Rone: We are launching not just one, but two 24/7 RSNs. They will be two separately programmed regional sports networks that will have at their core some foundational programming that we will share across both networks. That foundational programming began with our partnership with the Lakers and now extends to this partnership with the Galaxy. When you think about this historic first-ever Spanish-language RSN that we're calling Time Warner Cable Deportes, there's nothing from a sports standpoint that resonates with the Hispanic community more than soccer. With the Galaxy being the brightest of the bright teams in the MLS ­-- and now being a championship team with stars like David Beckham and Landon Donovan --­ it made all the sense in the world to us to have at our core a partnership that really centers itself in soccer, parlay it across two networks and, as importantly, strike the kind of relationship we have now with AEG, given their prominence in the sports world overall but in particular in Los Angeles.

Q: Explain why having a relationship with AEG is so important.
Rone: I've know [President & CEO] Tim Leiweke, [COO] Dan Beckerman and the group at AEG for 12-15 years now. No one's more aware of their prominence in L.A. than I am. [TWC Sports Senior VP/GM] Mark Shuken and I had a responsibility for appropriately programming and bringing these networks to life. The Galaxy was a natural. Tim knew we were there. I knew Tim was there. This was one of the first calls we made. The combination of the programming and who owns it . Mr. Anschutz and the AEG organization ­ it made a lot of sense for us on a lot of different levels.

Q: Reports are that the deal is for $55M over 10 years.
Rone: I can't comment on the rights fees. We have confidentiality agreements.

Q: How did you value these rights?
Rone: The rights are very valuable to Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. These two networks are on the rise. Soccer, in general, is becoming more and more prevalent in the States. Spring and summer programming, which we're in the process of building out; a relationship with AEG; and resonance with the Hispanic community: all of that comes together and it creates enormous value for our networks.

Q: Given the reports, the Galaxy now have the highest rights fees in all of MLS.
Rone: I think that's probably correct. And I think that was probably correct prior to our deal. I believe they were already the highest earning media rights team in MLS. Nothing will have changed there.

Q: Other than the amount they're getting paid.
Rone: Yes. That changed.

Q: What does that say about the value of MLS rights?
Rone: The league is on a rise in general. What this deal should say about MLS and soccer rights in general is that we're rapidly getting to a point, particularly with the launch of a 24/7, fully dedicated regional sports network to Spanish language programming, where soccer is going to become more and more valuable to the marketplace. We now are creating for that community and market, we are creating language-specific programming and a platform that you can therefore amortize and multi-platform rights like the Galaxy.

Q: What was your pitch to get the Galaxy rights?
Rone: Our approach to these foundational programming partnerships is that we're going to provide the fans and viewers with greater depth around these teams than they've ever had before. That certainly was very interesting to the Galaxy as it was to the Los Angeles Lakers. In past relationships, they've been very fortunate to get their events on the air. But there wasn't much other programming outside of Lakers and Galaxy games on television. You'll see more Lakers and Galaxy programming and a greater depth and access into those teams and organizations than viewers and fans have ever seen on television before. It's clear to me that's why the Galaxy came.

Q: What other rights are on your wish list?
Rone: The Los Angeles Dodgers are at the top of that wish list, as you can fully imagine.

Q: What's going on with that right now, given the events of this week?
Rone: I don't think it has changed in the past week at all. I [was at SBJ's Media and Technology conference] almost a week ago. You asked me if we had an interest and what was our interest level in the Dodgers. I told you, 'Absolutely, we had an interest.' If we had the opportunity, we would be highly desirous in acquiring the media rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That remains the same today.

Q: Have you had talks with the Dodgers yet?
Rone: No. My understanding is that it won't be the Dodgers that we will be having discussions with.

Q: The Dodgers top your wish list. What other rights are out there?
Rone: I'd like to decline commenting on that. As you know, these things are most successfully done when they are done under the radar. But you can suffice it to say that we plan on being continually active as it relates to the acquisition and creation of programming for these networks.
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