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McCourt Delivers TV for Every Game

January 30, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

In a subtle but unmistakable first shot at the Angels, the new owner of the Dodgers announced Thursday that all of his team's games would be televised this season.

As the Angels' new owner, Arte Moreno, scrambles to upgrade the worst television package in the American League, Fox sweetened its Dodger broadcast contract as it surrendered ownership of the team. In order to sell the Dodgers to Frank McCourt but retain cable broadcast rights through 2012, Fox agreed to air 20 additional games each season and pay McCourt an additional $10 million a year.

McCourt said the Dodgers planned to televise every regular-season game "for the life of the contract." Fox Sports Net 2 plans to carry 100 games, up from 80, with Channel 13 continuing to air 50. The remaining 12 games will be shown on ESPN and Channel 11, Dodger spokesman Derrick Hall said.

Moreno has vowed to boost the Angels' broadcast exposure and revenue, and he has tried to stimulate demand by spending $146 million on free agents, including superstar outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. The Dodgers have signed no prominent free agents, and their season-ticket sales are flat, at about 22,000. The Angels expect to top that and sell a record number of season tickets.

The Dodgers' new television deal, however, expands the gap in local broadcast revenue. The Dodgers will receive $33 million, with $25 million from Fox Sports Net and $8 million from Channel 13. The Angels last year received a total of $13.5 million from Fox Sports Net and Channel 9, with commitments from those stations to air a league-low 90 games annually.

Moreno outbid McCourt for the Angels last year. The excitement in Anaheim has not escaped the notice of the Dodgers' new owner.

"I think Arte Moreno is doing a great job," McCourt said. "He's doing some things we need to do, frankly ... I wish him nothing but the best, unless we meet each other in the World Series."

The Angels drew 3 million fans for the first time last year, in the season that followed their first World Series victory. If they sold out every game at Angel Stadium, they would draw 3.6 million.

The Dodgers have drawn 3 million fans for eight consecutive years -- although, as McCourt repeatedly noted, the team has not won a playoff game in 15 seasons.

"There's a tremendous loyalty," he said. "We want 3 1/2 million fans, 4 million fans.... What's going to build it? Winning."

Moreno plans to win too, and he considers all of Southern California his market. He intends to build the Angels into a large-revenue powerhouse by disregarding the notion of previous ownership that the Angels belonged to Orange County, the smaller market, and the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

"My impression is that they are definitely two different marketplaces," McCourt said.

When he spoke of emulating Moreno, McCourt said, he did not mean to comment on the Angels' player acquisitions.

"It's reaching out to the community and communicating with the fans and inviting them to the ballpark," McCourt said.

On his first day of ownership, Moreno ordered the Angel Stadium beer prices lowered. On his first day, McCourt delivered every Dodger game on TV.

"I have no grand plan to lower beer prices," he said.

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