Los Angeles Dodgers fans in Southern Nevada will be left truly blue this season unless local pay-TV distributors agree to carry Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet LA channel — the Dodgers’ exclusive new 24/7 TV home.
The regional sports network, which is owned by the Dodgers and run by TWC, was launched Tuesday night, and Vin Scully will broadcast its inaugural game at noon today in Los Angeles’ spring training opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But SportsNet LA is only available to TWC subscribers in Southern California, as no other TV providers have agreed to carry the channel.
TWC agreed to an $8.35 billion, 25-year deal to run SportsNet LA and reportedly is seeking almost $5 a month per subscriber, with the fee expected to escalate quickly in coming years.
Cox Cable has been in negotiations with TWC since shortly after the network was announced in January 2013, said Juergen Barbusca, manager of communications for Cox Communications in Las Vegas.
“We’re working through the negotiations process with (TWC) SportsNet LA and hope we can come to an agreement that does not burden our customers with excessive price increases,” he said. “We’re Dodgers fans, too, but we’re seeking a fair price for this new channel.”
DirecTV only recently began talks with TWC regarding the channel, according to Robert Mercer, the L.A.-based senior director of DirectTV public relations.
“We remain in discussions on how to provide the network at the best value to fans — casual fans and nonfans alike. That is our obligation to all of our customers,” Mercer wrote Monday in an e-mail. “There’s no question we prefer to continue to carry Dodgers games, but we believe that if the price is not fair and reasonable for the millions of families living in metro Los Angeles — let alone Central California, Nevada and Hawaii— they should have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to pay for games they may not watch.”
TWC is urging visitors to its sportsnetla.com website to “Demand Your Dodgers Now,” while providing a form to fill out that will be sent to their TV provider.
Negotiations probably won’t be resolved anytime soon, as the Dodgers’ season opener isn’t until March 22 against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Their first game in the United States is scheduled for March 30 at the San Diego Padres.
Los Angeles’ two games against Arizona in Australia will be broadcast by MLB Network (Cox Cable Channel 314), but they’ll be blacked out in the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ TV markets, which inexplicably includes Las Vegas.
MLB Network is scheduled to air today’s exhibition game at 6 p.m. on tape delay.
TWC also met resistance from distributors in 2012, when it launched its TWC SportsNet channel — the Los Angeles Lakers’ TV home — and Deportes, its Spanish-language sister channel.
Cox Cable and DirecTV didn’t agree to carry TWCS until November 2012, shortly after the NBA season had started.
TWC reportedly was seeking as much as $3.95 per subscriber for TWCS. By comparison, the YES Network, which carries the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, charges about $3 per subscriber.
Dish Network still doesn’t carry TWCS, making it unlikely it will carry the more expensive SportsNet LA.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the annual fee that TWC will pay the Dodgers starts at $210 million this season and increases dramatically through the life of the contract. Last year, CBS-owned KCAL and Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket — which has broadcast Dodgers games in Las Vegas for the past several years — paid a total of about $50 million for rights to Dodgers games.
“Time Warner Cable has unilaterally decided to pay an unprecedented high price and now wants all of their own customers as well as those of their competitors, none of which who had any say in the matter, to pick up that tab,” Dan York, DirecTV’s chief content officer, told the Times.
TWC did reach an agreement Monday with Bright House Networks, its partner that has subscribers in Bakersfield, Calif., to carry its new channel.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.