Fox Sports has been on a spending spree of late. In the final quarter of 2012, it purchased a minority stake in YES to gain the righs to the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets and also bought Sports Time Ohio to reobtain the rights to the Cleveland Indians which is it lost in 2006. Fox also narrowly lost to Time Warner for the Los Angeles Dodgers media rights.
However, Fox is apparently not done in its spending and is looking for another East Coast MLB team for its expanding portfolio. The Boston Red Sox are firmly entrenched with NESN, the New York Mets are on Comcast/Time Warner's SNY plus the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals aren't leaving MASN. So the logical choice for Fox would be the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies and Comcast have been together since 1997 and it was thought that their relationship would continue when the current expires in 2015. However, Fox has surfaced as a potential partner to create a new regional sports network in the Delaware Valley. Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports that could spark a bidding war along the lines of the Dodgers rights that ended earlier this year.
And if Fox won the rights to the Philllies, it would be able to put their games on Fox Sports 1 as part of its national MLB contract allowing it to utilize local Fox Sports Net (including YES and Sports Time Ohio) telecasts. Sports Business Journal's John Ourand reported earlier this year that starting in 2014, FS1 would air MLB games from their local RSN's on Saturday nights and if the Phillies are under the Fox umbrella, the new network would have access to as many as 10 Philadelphia games in addition to the 8 exposures for the Fox nationally televised games. So Fox would have access to 18 Phillies games a year.
As it stands now, Fox has the rights to 16 of the 30 MLB teams, but that will lower to 15 when the Dodgers go to Time Warner next year. Obtaining the rights to the Phillies would help offset the loss of the Dodgers and give Fox access to a team in the 4th largest market in the country.
However, the drawback to having Fox winning the rights is that Comcast controls much of the cable distribution in the Delaware Valley and a new RSN would have trouble gaining carriage. When MASN started in 2006, taking the Orioles off Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, the network had to fight to gain carriage on Comcast systems resulting in lawsuits and mudslinging. It finally ended with MASN and Comcast coming to an agreement, but it took a long time.
Comcast which also has deep pockets like Fox won't let the Phillies go without a fight. So let the bidding war begin. When the money settles, it will be the Phillies which end up as the winner.