The newly dubbed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have leaped from the smallest television package in Major League Baseball to the largest, with all but four of the team's games airing on either cable or broadcast this season.
What happens next year could be another question.
Angels owner Arte Moreno has pushed to give the team more exposure in Southern California, primarily through Fox Sports Net West, the programming-hungry outlet of broadcasting giant Fox Entertainment Group, which is owned by News Corp.
In March, Fox Sports Net West bought the rights to an additional 50 Angels games this season from the original 52-game package. Viacom Inc.'s KCAL (Channel 9) plans to air 50 games, with scattered games carried on ESPN, KCOP (Channel 13) and nationally televised Fox broadcasts, seen locally on KTTV (Channel 11).
But after this season, KCAL will give up its contract with the Angels in favor of the Dodgers a switch that a station spokesman would not discuss other than to call it a business decision. That will leave Moreno and the Angels looking for a new broadcast home next season.
The deals illustrate the growing clout and spending power of regional sports networks such as Fox Sports Net West, as well as the desire by team owners to be on the air as much as possible. Cable plays an increasingly important role in this mix because its viewership is more focused on sports than broadcast stations, and regional networks are willing to pay more for the rights to games. In addition, the mini-networks UPN and WB are gobbling up primetime hours on both KCOP and KTLA (Channel 5), which is when games are typically played.
That could leave Moreno with a limited number of options for television, which explains why he is believed to be studying the possibility of starting his own cable sports network, possibly in partnership with other professional teams in Orange County.
The concept was pioneered by New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose feud with Cablevision Systems Corp. prompted him to start the YES network, where Yankees games are carried.
The model has been successful in Denver, where pro hockey's Colorado Avalanche and the NBA's Denver Nuggets joined forces on a regional cable network in 2004. That left Fox Sports Net's regional cable network with baseball's Colorado Rockies, the NBA's Utah Jazz and a variety of college teams.
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