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Dodgers Can’t Shop TV Rights to Bidders, District Judge Says

The Los Angeles Dodgers can’t shop the rights to televise the team’s baseball games to new bidders while a court considers a challenge by Fox Sports, the club’s current broadcaster, a district judge ruled.

News Corp.’s Fox Sports has a “strong likelihood of success” on appeal from a ruling by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court that allowed the Dodgers to market the TV rights to games beginning with the 2014 season, U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark ruled today in Wilmington, Delaware.

Fox, which has the rights through the 2013 season, had failed to convince the bankruptcy court that the existing contract precludes the team from negotiating with another broadcaster before October 2012. The bankruptcy judge said that condition was unenforceable against a company in bankruptcy.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is selling the team, which filed for bankruptcy in June. To increase the value of the franchise, the Dodgers are soliciting separate offers for the rights to televise future games, which Fox holds through next year.

Stark granted a stay of the bankruptcy court ruling until he decides Fox’s appeal. The district judge accepted Fox’s argument that the Dodgers’ ability to sell the team by April isn’t dependent on being able to market television rights beforehand.

Fox’s appeal is Fox Sports Net West 2 LLC v. Los Angeles Dodgers LLC (In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC), 11-01235, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). The case is In re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, 11-12010, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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