Continuing to build its programming base for its pair of yet-to-launch regional sports networks in southern California, Time Warner Cable Sports has reached a rights deal with Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy.
The 10-year pact begins with the futbol team's 2012 season. The deal, which published reports value at some $55 million over its term, covers all of the Galaxy's locally available home and away MLS matches, as well as friendlies and other non-league contests. All of the games will air in high-definition.
The local TV rights to the Galaxy -- which is facing the Houston Dyamo for the MLS Cup title on Sunday at The Home Depot Center in Carlson, Calif. -- had been held by Fox Sports West.
Since the cable operator is not scheduled to launch the Los Angeles Lakers-centric RSNs -- dubbed Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and Time Warner Cable Deportes -- until next October, Time Warner Cable Sports will have to find local TV homes for the Galaxy games during the 2012 campaign.
"We're very excited about our new relationship with AEG [Anshutz Entertainment Group], and we're thrilled to add the Galaxy as another foundational programming partner across both of our new regional sports networks," said Time Warner Cable Sports president David Rone in a statement. "Soccer really resonates with this marketplace, and the Galaxy is a premier brand and a championship-caliber team. We look forward to growing interest in the Galaxy by offering fans an enhanced experience, in both English and Spanish.
Both networks will feature pre- and post-game shows produced separately in both English and Spanish, and showcase additional Galaxy-related programming throughout the season.
"Today's deal is groundbreaking, not only for our brand, but for our region, our sport and our industry and never would have happened without the faith, belief and wisdom that our partners at Time Warner Cable share with us," said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, which owns the Galaxy and Dynamo. "Time Warner Cable's commitment to launching the Spanish language channel, I believe, was the most important factor that got this deal done. It will give us a tremendous opportunity to grow our brand while connecting with our fans in a way we've never before done. Combine this with the additional programming, such as pre- and post-game shows, weekly magazine shows and other on-air elements and this becomes the best deal we could have ever imagined, not only for us, but most importantly, our fans."
Fox Sports West, which didn't exercise its renewal option, had been paying $500,000 per season for rights to 19 Galaxy games. The matches have not produced high ratings on the Fox service, even with U.S. men's national team captain Landon Donovan and international star David Beckman, whose contract with the side ends following MLS Cup.
Nielsens aside, the Galaxy gives the TWC RSNs complementary program to its expansive Lakers fare. Time Warner Cable wrested the rights to the famed NBA franchise in February from Fox Sports West and KCAL via a 20-year partnership valued at some $3 billion.
Rone also has expressed interested in obtaining media rights to MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers -- should they become available.
Fox's Prime Ticket holds the regional TV rights to the club for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as well as an exclusive negotiating window that concludes next November. Embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has agreed with MLB to sell the team through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, but wants to auction off the team's media rights as a means to raise the club's value. Various legal proceedings surrounding the rights are in play in the court.
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