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Angels TV anyone? Arte thinks so


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Angels' owner Moreno may buy TV station to carry games

By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

The Angel Channel could be coming to your television in the next few years, bringing baseball into your home live from Anaheim and points beyond.

 

However, as the city wages a legal battle to keep its name on the team, owner Arte Moreno might consider whether to explore options for moving the team from Anaheim.

 

Although Moreno said Thursday he remains committed to Anaheim, he also said he has been contacted by representatives of other locations interested in luring the Angels.

 

"Yes, people talk to us," Moreno said. "Obviously, we're in a lawsuit with the city of Anaheim. Why wouldn't everybody else around start thinking that we're in an old stadium and we're not happy?"

 

Angel Stadium opened in 1966, with a $118-million renovation completed in 1998. The Angels' lease extends through 2029, but they can terminate the agreement in 2016 by paying an estimated $12-million fee.

 

Moreno, asked whether the lawsuit might prompt him to consider searching for a new stadium and a way out of Anaheim before 2016, refused to comment.

 

Mayor Curt Pringle said the City Council considered the possibility Moreno might ultimately look for a new home before authorizing the suit, which contends that the new Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim name violates the lease.

 

"We looked at every ramification," Pringle said. "We also feel we shouldn't be pushed around, and neither should the taxpayers. It's a shame he may be thinking those things. All we've been asking him is, don't make up the rules to the deal, just live by them."

 

Moreno said that changing the name from Anaheim Angels should help broaden the team's appeal and generate more revenue by reminding broadcasters and advertisers the team plays in the second-largest media market in the country, although he acknowledged he does not yet have "hard evidence" to back up his theory.

 

He described the Angels' current media deals as "a Little League media package," claiming the Milwaukee Brewers have a better television deal than the Angels and that the Seattle Mariners make three times as much in radio revenue.

 

With Channel 9 dropping the Angels in favor of the Dodgers next season, he said the team could buy a television station or join with a cable or satellite company in starting one.

 

He noted the Mets, who have partnered with Comcast and Time Warner on a channel to debut next year, signed Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez over the winter. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the teams that generate the most revenue in the major leagues, each operate a cable channel.

 

"If you're not looking at what the Yankees and Boston are doing, and now what the Mets are doing, and the Cubs and Braves with superstations, then you've got your head in the sand," Moreno said.

 

He added, "There's not anything out of the realm of possibility that says we can't buy our own TV station and market ourselves."

 

The Angels will air 40 games this season on Channel 56, available on most Southland cable and satellite systems. The station could be bought for about $250 million, two sources said.

 

"We're aware of what's for sale and the round figures of what the prices are," Moreno said.

 

Moreno said he was not as interested in pay-per-view options and wanted to keep some games on over-the-air television so even those without cable or satellite could watch the Angels.

 

In his two years of ownership, he said, he has increased the Angels' revenue 50%, and advertising revenue has tripled. So now, he said with a smile, the Yankees no longer generate three times as much money as the Angels.

 

"Now, they're generating twice as much as we are," he said.

 

He said he has no debt on the team, hopes to turn a profit next year and wants to field a team that can compete with the Yankees year in and year out. That requires additional streams of money, he said, and the more he can get from broadcasters and sponsors, the more he can minimize price increases on tickets, parking and concessions.

 

In that spirit, he said, he hoped fans would understand the purpose of the name change even if it they were upset by it.

 

"Are people emotionally hurt? Yes," he said. "Objectively, they'll see a better product on the field. We'll try to do the best we can to maintain the affordability of the experience.

 

"Everybody wants to be associated with a winner?. I'm not going to be satisfied with just making it to the playoffs and not hanging a flag. Our goal is to win a World Series."

 

Moreno said he has received many letters from fans suggesting he compromise by bringing back the California Angels name, which might mollify Orange County residents outraged by any association with Los Angeles.

 

"There's five teams in California, and we want our own identity," he said.

 

He would not identify which entities had contacted him to inquire about luring the Angels from Anaheim, but he did say AEG was not one. The Angels recently formed a marketing partnership with AEG, the company that built Staples Center and the Home Depot Center and explored the construction of an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

 

Moreno said the Anaheim lawsuit would cost him more than $1 million. Sources said the two sides held the briefest of settlement negotiations before proceeding to court, but Moreno wanted the right to use the Los Angeles name, a proposal that never would have passed the Anaheim City Council.

 

"We would have liked to have this thing settled before spring training started," Moreno said, "but if you can't make a settlement, then you let the process go through."

 

The city claims the Angels' new name violates the spirit of a clause requiring the team name to "include the name Anaheim therein."

 

In a preliminary hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos ruled the Angels have "technically complied" with the lease.

 

Moreno bristled at the perception he is exploiting a loophole in the lease, noting that Disney ? then owner of the team ? refused to agree to a clause requiring the team to be called the Anaheim Angels.

 

"There's a difference between something spelled out in an agreement and a loophole," he said. "A loophole is when somebody takes a word and changes it. I'm not changing the words. There were 26 different drafts of that lease agreement, and Disney specifically crossed that line out. It says the name Anaheim will remain in the team's name. It's not a loophole. It's the reality of the agreement.

 

"My attorneys told me, before I bought the team, that it was in my legal rights to change the name if I wanted to. I did."

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