* Dodgers seek early auction of media rights
* Fox says to defend media rights ownership
Nov 12 (Reuters) - The bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers have sought permission to auction the team’s lucrative media rights earlier than scheduled to bolster the sale of the team under a recent settlement with Major League Baseball, according to court documents filed on Saturday.
MLB had earlier opposed Dodgers owner Frank McCourt’s effort to solicit bids for future media rights, valued at about $3 billion, which sparked a lawsuit against the team by News Corp’s Fox subsidiary.
One person familiar with the situation said that getting the MLB to remain neutral on the contentious issue of a media rights sale was a major concession made by the league to get McCourt to agree to a sale of the storied team in bankruptcy court.
Fox’s Prime Ticket sports network holds the Dodgers’ media rights through 2013 and has the exclusive right of first negotiation from November 2012 for a new deal.
The Dodgers now want an auction for the media rights to take place over the next few months as the auction for the team occurs.
“Exclusive negotiations with Fox would begin the day after entry of an order granting the amended motion, instead of October 15, 2012, as provided by the Fox contract,” said the filing in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.
The MLB declined to comment on Saturday.
A spokesman for Fox was not immediately available.
On Friday, Fox spokesman Chris Bellitti said, “We fully support a change in ownership of the Dodgers.”
“In that process, Fox has rights that cannot be violated, as MLB has previously stated. Those rights were negotiated and paid for by us and approved by MLB. We will take all necessary steps to aggressively protect and defend those rights, as our still-pending lawsuit suggests,” he said.
The Dodgers had no further comment “beyond the amended motion to approve marketing procedures for licensing telecast rights it has filed today with the bankruptcy court in Delaware,” said a spokesperson for the debtor.
The team and media rights sales will be run by the Dodgers’ financial adviser, Blackstone Group LP .
The case is In re: Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 11-12010.