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Volume 21 No. 2
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New owner would face local TV talks

The Los Angeles Clippers’ local TV deal with Prime Ticket runs for another two seasons, putting negotiations for a new deal atop the to-do list of any new owner of the franchise.

According to sources familiar with the current deal, Prime Ticket owner Fox Sports Net pays the team on average between $25 million and $30 million a year for the rights. The deal ends after the 2015-16 season.

The timing of the negotiations would appear to benefit the Clippers: Los Angeles has seen an explosion of potential bidders, with at least six regional sports networks now operating in the area. In the past 19 months, Time Warner Cable has been responsible for the launch of three of those Los Angeles-based RSNs after outbidding Fox Sports for the rights to the Lakers and Dodgers. Time Warner Cable agreed to a 25-year, $8.35 billion rights deal with the Dodgers, ($334 million per year) and a 25-year, $5 billion rights deal with the Lakers ($200 million per year).

But the Clippers face some uncertainty when it comes to that next media deal.

It appears unlikely that Fox would get into a bidding war to keep the Clippers’ rights on Prime Ticket or to move them to FS West. Over the past two years, Fox has walked away from the bidding process for higher-profile Los Angeles-based teams when company executives felt that bids got too high.

Even Time Warner Cable could have second thoughts about an aggressive Clippers bid. The Clippers almost certainly would not be part of TWC SportsNet, a channel devoted to the in-town rival Lakers. And while Clippers rights could serve to complement the Dodgers’ channel, SportsNet LA, with winter programming, there’s a question about whether the channel can afford another big rights deal. More than one month into the MLB season, SportsNet LA has not signed distribution deals beyond Time Warner Cable.