Sunday, March 30, 2014

Time-Warner's 'Dodgers Network' Leaves Most L.A. Fans Out in the Cold

I'm still shaking my head over the decision by the Dodgers' owners to enter into a stupid television deal that's so far been universally panned as unnecessary and fan-unfriendly.

At LAT, "Dodgers channel still not available to much of Los Angeles":
Good news for Dodgers fans. This Sunday's regular-season game against the San Diego Padres is on ESPN, which means everyone with a pay-TV service will be able to see it.

The bad news for Dodgers fans is that Tuesday's game against the Padres is on SportsNet Los Angeles, the team's new channel that is being distributed by Time Warner Cable. Unless there is some last-minute deal-making, subscribers of DirecTV, Charter, Dish, FiOS, Cox and AT&T U-Verse will have to whip out their AM radios to keep up with the action.

Time Warner Cable, which shelled out billions to handle carriage of SportsNet LA, has been unsuccessful at closing deals with other area distributors. Such tense negotiations over sports channels has become commonplace. A few years ago Time Warner Cable didn't complete its distribution deals for SportsNet, the home of the Lakers, until after the regular season started.

DirecTV is the key for the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable. With more than 25% of the market, DirecTV is the second-largest distributor in the area after Time Warner Cable, which has over 30% reach here.

Not everyone can get Time Warner Cable but anyone can subscribe to DirecTV. That's why a deal with the satellite broadcaster would help Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers put pressure on other distributors to sign deals.

Conversely, if all the other distributors agreed to carry the channel, DirecTV would have to sign on or risk a mass desertion.
On Thursday, Dodgers President Stan Kasten said he was not pleased with the SportsNet LA situation.

"I am disappointed that deals haven't been closed yet," Kasten said. "And I have to tell you with the first regular-season game coming on Tuesday, I am now concerned that some fans at the start will not be able to see games. And that's disappointing and it shouldn't be happening."
Also, "For Dodger fans, new channel is a rude awakening," and "Most Dodger fans to be shut out from viewing games on opening day."

Added: WSJ has a big background report, "Pay TV Balks at Price of the Dodgers" (via Google).