Saturday, April 25, 2015

With Collapse of Comcast-Time Warner Deal, Dodgers Fans Still Shutout

It's becoming a protest movement.

At LAT, "For Dodgers fans, the TV shutout continues":
For Dodgers fans, the long wait to see games televised again may be headed into extra innings.

An estimated 70% of Los Angeles-area households don't get the SportsNet LA channel that carries Dodgers games. That situation was expected to be corrected if Comcast Corp.'s planned $45-billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable had succeeded.

With that merger officially pronounced dead Friday, the prospects of a deal to carry the games on other cable and satellite providers were as murky as ever.

"There's no end in sight," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute. "There does not appear to be an easy workaround to get this thing done."

With few exceptions, televised Dodgers games can be seen only by customers of Time Warner Cable, which agreed to pay $8.35 billion over 25 years for the rights to distribute the Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA.

Its rivals, including DirecTV and Charter Communications, have refused to pay what they say are excessive fees to carry the games. The standoff began last season and has carried over into the current one.

On Friday, Time Warner Cable chief Robert D. Marcus said he would like to resume talks with other providers.

"It takes willing parties in order to make a deal, and we haven't had much luck getting any of the major distributors to the negotiating table so that we can have productive conversations," Marcus said. "But we are ready, willing and able to have those discussions. We'd love to have the games in front of Dodger fans as soon as we can."

But any kind of resolution is still out of reach as long as pay-TV operators that also include Verizon FiOS, AT&T and Cox Communications continue to bristle at the cost of the channel. Time Warner Cable has asked other cable and satellite TV companies to pay as much as $4.90 a month per subscriber for SportsNet LA, according to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan.

Time Warner Cable and Guggenheim Baseball Management, which owns the Dodgers, overestimated consumer interest and underestimated resistance from other pay-TV operators.

If Comcast had succeeded in acquiring Time Warner Cable, it was expected to cut the price and swallow any losses — partly to curry customer goodwill, and partly because its greater financial clout and assets would have made it easier to horse-trade with DirecTV, the nation's second-largest pay-TV provider.

That could still happen if a new potential buyer, such as Charter, succeeded in acquiring Time Warner Cable...

And for the workaround, "Dodgers fans find ways around local blackout."