The Kings and Fox Sports have reached agreement on a new television contract, providing an immediate cash injection that could help the team retain star goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The new deal keeps the Kings on Fox Sports West through 2024 and guarantees the team about $250 million, according to a person familiar with the agreement who was not authorized to discuss the terms.
The contract ranks among the most lucrative local cable deals for any NHL team. The deal is expected to be announced Monday, before the Kings play the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“We’re not only business partners with the Kings. We’re fans of the Kings,” said Steve Simpson, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. “We’re excited to showcase their success on our network.”
The Kings’ television windfall has less to do with their Stanley Cup run than with the fractured cable sports landscape in Southern California.
With Time Warner Cable swiping the Lakers from Fox and launching two sports channels, the Kings now have joined the Angels in leveraging the threat of jumping to TWC into a fat new deal to stay with Fox.
The Dodgers become television free agents this fall, but Fox has retained the Angels and Kings well into the next decade, with the Clippers already signed deep into this decade.
“We’re committed to the sports business in Los Angeles,” Simpson said.
Fox agreed to tear up the Kings’ current contract, which extended through 2015 and included annual payments that topped out at about $12 million.
The new deal averages about $21 million per season. The most lucrative local cable deals pay NHL teams more than $25 million per season and the least lucrative less than $10 million, Forbes reported in December 2010.
The Angels’ new deal includes an ownership stake in Fox Sports West; the Kings’ deal does not. The average annual value of the Angels’ new contract is about six times that of the Kings’ deal. Baseball teams command much larger payments because they play more games and generally attract larger audiences for each one.
Neither Simpson nor Tim Leiweke, the Kings’ governor and president of the team’s parent company AEG, would confirm the specific figures of the Kings’ new deal. However, Leiweke said the deal puts the Kings among the top 10 NHL teams in annual cable rights fees.
Under the deal, the Kings get an undisclosed chunk of their money at once, as a signing bonus. Quick, the star goaltender, has one year left on his contract; the Kings are allowed to discuss a new deal with him starting July 1.
Leiweke did not discuss specific players. He did say that the players — and, by extension, the fans — should benefit from the Kings’ television jackpot.
“This means we have a better chance of keeping this nucleus together,” he said.
As the Kings negotiated with Fox, neither party had any idea this nucleus would end up in the Stanley Cup Final. However, Leiweke said the deal does include financial incentives for the on-ice success that presumably would build the Kings’ television audience.
“At the time we were negotiating, we were not in the middle of a Stanley Cup run,” Leiweke said. “We built in some provisions and adjustments depending on how far we go. They were very good at giving us the ability to be rewarded for success.”