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Angels Barely Covered on TV

Moreno ends talks with FSN on 10-year, $500-million deal that was supposed to be set. Only 58 games are on the schedule for now.

March 30, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The Angels pulled the plug on Fox Sports Net on Wednesday, putting their fans in jeopardy of losing television coverage of opening day and virtually every road game this season.

Six weeks after Arte Moreno called a 10-year, $500-million contract extension with FSN "a done deal," the Angel owner terminated negotiations with the cable company. Instead of the proposed 150-game television package, the Angel coverage reverted to the 50 games required under the existing FSN West contract.

That schedule leaves the Angels with no television coverage for 39 of their 51 games before Memorial Day, including Monday's opener. Club executives scrambled Wednesday to discuss patchwork deals with local stations, including Channels 13 and 56.

Moreno remained committed to televising 150 games this season, including the opener, club spokesman Tim Mead said.

"There will be a full effort to accomplish that objective," Mead said.

The Angels and FSN could revive talks too, according to one source familiar with the negotiations.

"This deal is not dead," the source said. "I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen."

The deal is dormant, though, after Moreno decided negotiations had reached an impasse. Although both sides agreed long ago on the basic terms -- 10 years and $500 million -- sources said the parties could not resolve issues surrounding emerging technologies.

Randy Freer, chief operating officer of Fox Sports Networks, said he was disappointed in the Angels' decision to withdraw from negotiations but was still interested in reaching an agreement.

"To the degree the Angels want to continue conversations and come back and talk about a deal," he said, "we're certainly open to that."

After Channel 9 dropped the Angels for the Dodgers, leaving the Angels with nothing beyond the 50 games guaranteed on FSN West this season, the club asked FSN to broadcast additional games. However, with the current contract expiring in 2009 and Moreno exploring the possibility of launching his own cable channel thereafter, FSN refused to air additional games unless the Angels agreed to the long-term extension that would kill such a channel.

The parties had gotten so close to an agreement that FSN had decided which 100 games to carry on FSN West and which 50 would air on Channel 13, with an additional eight scheduled for Fox's national broadcasts. Today, including those eight broadcasts, the Angels' television schedule has been reduced to 58 games, including seven road games.

In the short term, the Angels could take a significant financial hit because no team in the major leagues broadcasts so few games. The current FSN contract guarantees the Angels $14.5 million this season; the proposed deal would have more than doubled that amount.

In the long term, Moreno could reconsider the concept of an Angel channel, although he said last month that he preferred to leave the television business to television executives.

"We're in the baseball business," he said.

Said Freer: "We're going to be in business with the Angels for the next three years, and we hope we're part of their larger solution to provide the best coverage for their fans, today and in the long term."

In a statement, Angel President Dennis Kuhl said the team had called off negotiations "at the 25th hour."

"In looking to the future, we feel there are a wide variety of opportunities that will be available to us," he said. "Our goal remains providing maximum television coverage of Angels baseball in both 2006 and the years to come."

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