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Live in Los Angeles? Wanna watch the Dodgers? Well, about that . . .

Feb 18, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

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The Dodgers got a multi-billion TV deal and their own channel. The owner of that channel, Time-Warner, is tasked with making sure as many people see that channel as possible. To do that, Time-Warner has to convince other carriers — like DirecTV and other cable companies — to add the Dodgers channel. If they do that, it’ll cost those other company’s subscribers an awful lot of money, as sports rights fees are expensive.

According to the L.A. Times, Time-Warner is having some trouble convincing other companies to carry it:

Hundreds of thousands could miss out on watching their team on television this season because of a skirmish between its new TV home and local pay-TV distributors.

Set to debut Feb. 25, SportsNet LA, which is owned by the Dodgers and run by Time Warner Cable, has yet to sign agreements that would make it available in the majority of Los Angeles pay-TV homes.

The kicker: for the first time ever you can’t use rabbit ears to pick up Dodgers games over the air. You have to subscribe to a cable or satellite provider, and even if you do, you may not get your Dodgers if that carrier doesn’t have the channel. The Dodgers will still get their money — Time-Warner has guaranteed it — but how Time-Warner can make money on this without getting others to go along is an open question.

Eventually some will cave. They usually do. But as history shows, bubbles don’t perpetually inflate. They eventually pop. One wonders if the Dodgers/Time-Warner deal isn’t where the big TV money in baseball bubble pops.

  1. Bob - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    The bubble has already popped in Houston, where the Astros are in bankruptcy court and most of their “local market” are about to enter year 2 with no TV access to the games.

    And yet, Astros games are blacked out on the MLB TV package in the “local market” area, which extends to Louisiana. That’s a helluva scam you’re running, Selig.

    • Bob - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      Clarification: The Astros are fighting with CSN-Houston and the Rockets in bankruptcy court. CSNH is bankruptcy, not the Astros.

      • fbwangus8736 - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:12 PM

        Can anybody blame CSNH with these type of ratings for Astro games! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V3CfD8TPac

      • chilguy - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:03 AM

        Actually, I’m not positive, but I believe the Astros are a party.

        If the Houston version is structured the way CSN is some other markets, then the team owns a piece of the channel. I’m not positive, but CSN has used that structure in other markets.

        For example, the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox each own 20% of CSN Chicago, while Comcast owns the remaining 20%, which is totally ironic. Chicago is one of the last U.S. markets where you can see a significant number of games (around 175 of the above-mentioned teams per year) on over-the-air television, through a combination of WGN-TV (the local version, not WGN America, which isn’t allowed to carry any Blackhawks’ games, for example) and WCIU-TV.

        It has to suck, though, and I sympathize with you.

      • stex52 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        Chilguy, you are correct. The Astros are about 45% owners. But they want out. The deal has been a disaster and 60% of the region can’t watch local baseball or basketball.

    • adventuresinfresno - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      MLB’s blackout rules are among the most outdated in sports. Blackout restrictions should be done away with completely. There is no longer any evidence whatsoever that TV broadcasts take away from the likelihood that you’re going to buy a live ticket.

      • Bob - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        I think the blackout exists to make sure you watch the local network that’s paying all of those right fees. And I’m sure the blackouts are still in place when games aren’t available locally to put pressure on the providers to carry the networks.

        But it’s still not right because viewer demand isn’t going to get the game carried. It’s gonna be whether corporate broadcast giant can reach a business deal with corporate sports team that allows both sides to profit to the moon and still rape the customers.

      • sumkat - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:36 PM

        @bob, not really. If there is enough consumer demand for the channel, than the carriers that have the channel will get all the new customers. Others will be forced to follow.

        The question is, will people have a high enough demand for the channel to justify the price change it will cause. My guess is, the local carriers are looking at their ratings, and don’t think so for what Time Warner is asking for. I don’t know what the Dodgers TV number look like, and obviously have no idea what TW is asking for to carry the channel, so I have no idea

        Luckily, in Philly, the cable provider owns the network with the rights, so it’s not a problem (unless you have satellite). I’m not going to lie, CSN is the only reason I have Comcast. I tried a few years back (06) to go with dish, and live without the local sports….I paid hundreds of dollars 6 months later to get out of my dish contract early and go back to cable, lol.

      • hockeyflow33 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:36 PM

        The internet feed blackouts are standard among all sports though.

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:25 AM

        @the Blackouts talk,

        It’s about ticket sales. Preventing people from watching a game at home is about getting them to go to the stadium and buy a ticket. Period. Blackouts of a TV broadcast would only hurt all parties involved with TV deal rights. Local TV networks can’t just broadcast a game they don’t pay for. Those deals are already set.

        Internet black out is a different discussion. That is about driving up viewers. ESPN blacks out customers from MNF WatchESPN on Mobile phones. But not on your computer. Blocking mobile phone streaming causes them to either use a PC (still have to have a subscription, meaning your paying a cable bill) or use a TV. It’s pretty dumb, but every aspect of a black out is intended to funnel money.

      • jrbdmb - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        NO, it is absolutely in place to force you to subscribe to cable or satellite (if they carry the channel) to watch the local teams games.

        Problem is in L.A. it is possible nobody other than Time-Warner subs will have access to the channel, all OTA games have been eliminated, and MLBEI is not an option.

  2. asimonetti88 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    The Lakers had this same problem when they first got their TV channel a couple seasons ago, but they figured it out before too long. I’m sure the Dodgers will too.

    • echech88 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:26 PM

      The Lakers are exactly why this will probably take VERY long and get VERY ugly. It is the same company (TWC) that had such contentious negotiations just last year with most stations missing the first week or two of regular season games because Time Warner was asking for too much.

      You think those providers are going to cave quicker when Time Warner is looking to double that subscription fee? Yeah right. I think this is where you see the first real stand against these RSN’s in Southern California.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        To be honest, I didn’t follow the Lakers’ SportsNet discussions all that much, and I have TWC anyway so it didn’t matter to me. I wonder if their upcoming merger with Comcast will have any effect on this? You’d have to think if TWC and Comcast are carrying the Dodgers, but Dish, DirecTV etc aren’t, they’d be at a big disadvantage and many others would consider moving to TWC to see the Dodgers. But yeah, I don’t really understand how that all works… and yeah, the fees are getting pretty high, my cable is awfully expensive these days.

      • davidpom50 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:17 PM

        I live in LA, I’m a huge Dodger fan, and a DirecTv customer. From a customer service standpoint, DirecTV blows TWC out of the water, and it’s not particularly close.

        However… live sports are pretty much the only thing keeping me from getting rid of television service completely and just using Netflix/Hulu etc. If DirecTV doesn’t get the Dodgers, chances are both they and TWC will lose the chance to earn my subscription dollars, and I kind of doubt I’m alone.

      • clydeserra - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:12 PM

        The question people in LA need to ask themselves is, it worth it to pay $1500 a year to watch them on TV.

        For me an my family (kids aged 4 and 6 lst year when I pulled the plug) the answer was no. Gams are on too late for them either past bed time or during homework hours. I have a perfectly good radio if I want to know how things are going.

        We go to about 10-15 games a year, so the money is reallocated to a live experience. Its funny, because the structure of the TV contracts have allowed me to go to more games, kinda the opposite of what people were saying in the 50s.

  3. Brian Murphy - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    Naive question: How does the recent Comcast-Time Warner merger affect this situation, if at all?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Others can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the merger is even close to finalized yet, so right now, it would have no impact. Right?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:39 PM

        It still needs approval from the FCC. No idea how far along it is though.

      • senioreditor2 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:52 PM

        and the Justice Department

      • jm91rs - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        If I’m reading the story right (and a post below), Time Warner owns the rights to the dodgers, not Time Warner Cable. They aren’t at all related anymore, so I guess the merger means nothing on this issue.

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:02 AM

        Well, I’m not sure why people keep saying Merger, its PURCHASE, and it is finalized. FCC approval is the next step.

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        @JM,

        No, Time Warner Cable owns the rights. Not Time Warner.

    • jm91rs - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:35 PM

      Is comcast in the LA area? If so I would think the merger, or even the talk of a merger should help those two get a deal done to broadcast the games. I’m no expert, but I’ve read a lot that the merger should go through OK eventually.

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM

        There is no merger, or talk. Comcast is buying TWC. Pending FCC approval.

        Comcast may be in LA, or they may sell it to another carrier.

      • ochospantalones - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:05 AM

        @bender4700 You are remarkably self-assured for someone who has never heard of the Department of Justice. The deal may or may not end up being approved in something resembling it’s current form, but quit being a dick and acting like the suggestion that the deal may not happen makes someone stupid. An accepted buyout offer without regulatory approval isn’t worth much.

  4. blabidibla - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    With more and more people cutting the cord on cable/satellite altogether, this bubble is going to burst regardless. Stream the games on a per game basis, or seasonal packages, and then we’ll talk.

    • crackersnap - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      But what is the service that delivers the Internet to your domicile so that you can stream at all?

      For 99% of the people impacted, it is the very same carriers being discussed. Those carriers might, at the end of the day, love to be able to charge everyone up the wazoo for direct Internet bandwidth, WITHOUT have to pay the costs for channel content.

      And, with net neutrality on the ropes, these same carriers will have all kinds of abilities to strangle your attempts to divert your attention away from their approved content sources.

      • Ryan - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:27 PM

        Yup. Cord-cutter here. I use MLB.tv to watch the Red Sox, and fortunately I now live in NC, which means I can watch as long as they aren’t playing the Orioles or Nationals (since we are *naturally* in their territory). Anyway, it seems inevitable that, as more people cut the cord, those same television carriers (TWC, Comcast, etc.) which are also ISPs will shift the dollars around – fewer people pay for cable, but everyone NEEDS the Internet – so that you pay way more for your Internet. And I agree, net neutrality (or the lack thereof) is going to add insult to injury. These big carriers will charge more for the Internet, while adding data caps (TWC doesn’t have one, but Comcast does) and potentially also slowing down popular streaming services unless you pay a fee. It feels very predictable.

      • jm91rs - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:38 PM

        Ryan, help me out here. I am a recent cord cutter, pretty sweet paying $30 a month for internet and $8 for netflix. I haven’t gone an MLB season without cable though, so maybe you can help me with mlb.tv blackout rules. I’m guessing I won’t be able to watch the Reds games since I’m in Cincinnati area?
        Also, I don’t think enough people will ever cut the cord to really upset cable companies much. It’s a tough trigger to finally pull.

      • blabidibla - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Agreed. Still that’s a whole new system of revenue to be explored.

  5. gibbyfan - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    For expensive programming, the fair way to do it would be the novel concept of charging those who want it and letting others opt out.The Cable lobby has successfully “fought’ this but the tide might be turning.

    • karlkolchak - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:55 PM

      Great idea. Too bad it would cost the cable companies billions in revenue and therefore will not be allowed to happen. True free market capitalism with no safety net for failure only exists for little people in this country.

      • gibbyfan - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:24 PM

        yes but eventually the market would iron things out…….cable would get less revenue but would pay less to the Dodgers who in turn would pay less to their players and in my opinion some level of sanity would be achieved and really if market conditions dictated that team payrolls were 20 Million instead of 200 million, do you really think in the end the players would even know the difference?

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:10 AM

        It’s not that it costs the Cable companies. Cable Companies don’t make much off these deals.

        There’s so much misinformation out about this right now. The cable companies actually often take a loss on these team specific networks.

    • pastabelly - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      I agree, but it’s us sports fans that would pay even more than we’re paying now.

  6. Fartacus - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    No rabbit ears, no Dodgers? I’ll get over it. I cut the cord and won’t go back.

  7. tfbuckfutter - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Being a transplanted fan is fun.

    So I can pay $300-$400 or whatever the hell it is now just to watch the sports teams I like, and I may have to change my cable provider to even have THAT benefit?

    I love the entire sport-viewing-deliveryship system. I have ever since more than a decade ago I got talked into buying DirecTV with a 2 year contract because the salesman assured me Red Sox and Bruins games wouldn’t be blacked out on NESN. Well….they were. And when I complained to DirecTV? “Well, we can’t cancel your contract without a $300 cancellation fee….but I CAN sell you the Extra Innings package at a discounted rate.”

    The most screwed up thing of it all? I bet if you could subscribe to JUST 1 particular team’s games, even in the home markets, as the only way to access them….I know I, and probably many others, would pay for the right as long as it was reasonable.

    I’d pay $100 to watch a specific team’s season. I won’t pay $300 to watch that team plus other games I won’t be watching.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      I pretty much did the same thing with MLB.tv and the Yanks. Because TWC and MASN got into a pissing match, I can’t watch the Yanks even when they play in Baltimore, whether on regular TV (TWC) or MLB.tv (blackout).

      Like you, I’d almost pay $100 just to watch a non-blacked out YES network.

    • whereyaat - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      I’m a diehard Dodgers fan and a DirecTv subscriber. While I watch and radio a ton of Vin Scully a year, I also subscribe to Extra Innings to catch all the other teams. For a true fan of the game for almost 30 years, it’s worth it. I also bet on hundreds of games a season, but I would subscribe anyways even if I didn’t.

      I love being able to DVR the great pitching matchups of the day, rookie debuts, and baseball’s best/worst announcers. Watching Hawk Harrelson and Tom Brennaman is trolling myself, but man, is it fun. It’s like listening to Ralph Lawler (Clippers homer announcer) if Ralph Lawler was an angry, bitter, petty old man, lol. Brennaman has improved at least, he’s not as petty as he used to be and no longer references the DBacks once an inning. Brewers’ announcers are among the best in the MLB.

      Favorite out-of-market teams with intriguing games are the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners, Nationals, Cubs, and White Sox to name a few.

  8. kalinedrive - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Say you’re a big businessman with a big business, and you think a product is going to be big business. So you pay a bajillion dollars to acquire the rights to said product because heck, everyone will want it. But then you figure out that in order to make money off of this great product you bought, you are going to have to sell it for even more than you paid for it. Now, you’re a big businessman with a big business, and this should have maybe occurred to you before you paid for it, but what the heck, you figure you’ll just get one of your competitors to buy up part of your supply so you don’t have to sell it all yourself. Except oops, your competitors aren’t waiting in line to give you money to help you recoup what you already spent. I can’t imagine where your plan went awry.

  9. RonKarate - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    $5 bucks more added to my cable bill to watch the Dodgers? Please. That’s easy. I pay more than that for channels I don’t watch. I gladly paid more to watch the Lakers.

    • RonKarate - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:12 PM

      plus, I can watch the Angels until this mess is sorted out.

    • echech88 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      It isn’t about you. They know you will pay. They are more worried about losing the non-sports fan who will be paying between $200-400 a year for ESPN/Lakers/Dodgers/PAC-12/Angels/Kings/Ducks etc.

  10. rbj1 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Baseball is enjoyable over the radio.

  11. scatterbrian - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Cable is a relic. The internet is your friend.

    • bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      The Internet doesn’t come from the sky ::P

    • jrbdmb - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      And someday soon cable TV will cost $50, and your internet will be $150/mo.

  12. kingjoe1 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    One side of the story which is missing is that Time Warner will be owned soon by Comcast. Comcast won’t allow DirecTV to carry the local comcast channel which carries the phillies flyers and sixers. So two points. Comcast just signed a huge deal with the Phillies, like the Dodgers did with TW. If Comcast/TW are the same perhaps DirectTV will force comcast to carry both Philly and LA or it could become a long drawn out affair between the two stubborn companies. All of this impact the fans.

    The other point is the bubble must be able to expand more if Comcast even with the new huge $$ deal with the Phillies continues to be okay with their channel not being on DirectTV.

    • bigedfromca - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:13 PM

      Time Warner, and Time Warner Cable are two separate companies, Comcast is merging with TWC, they’ll get the subscribers and city contracts. But TW , owner of HBO, TNT, TBS and Dodger & Laker deals will have nothing to do with Comcast.

      • bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:58 PM

        It’s not a merger, it’s a purchase. Huge difference. Comcast is buying them out right.

  13. mybrunoblog - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    The Yankees had this issue in 2002 when they went to the YES Network and Cablevison refused to run Yes. The pissing match lasted ayes and many Yankee fans didn’t get to see about 135 games in 2002. Yes eventually caved and cut a deal with Cablevison. In the end many people love the Yanks but weren’t to switch providers just to watch them. Myself included.

    • clydeserra - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      that was 12 years ago. you may as well compare it to the telegaph

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM

        Not when it comes to cable companies.

        They are still working tirelessly to keep the same system they’ve had for 30 years despite a changing environment.

      • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:11 AM

        tfbuck,

        You really couldn’t be more wrong. Some are stuck, but a few are making huge advancements in the system they use. I know, directly, that at least one major company is NOT at all as you described.

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 19, 2014 at 3:26 AM

        Really?

        Which cable companies no longer force me to subscribe to 30 channels bundled with the 2 I actually one?

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 19, 2014 at 3:27 AM

        *want

  14. ch0psuey - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    Screw Time-Warner. Had to endure 2 years of No Padres games on Tv. They finally picked up Fox Sports San Diego this year, however, I will still keep the anti Time-Warner sticker in the back of my truck.

    • bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:54 PM

      You will get relief one way or another when TWC is gone. Will take some time, but it’s begun.

  15. kc114 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    The other companies shouldn’t budge. They should let Time Warner go bankrupt. How long before the Dodgers have bankroll issues?

    • whereyaat - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:54 PM

      None. Time Warner is contractually obligated to pay the Dodgers more than four times the 2013 broadcast fee, regardless of whether the DirecTvs of the world reach a deal with Time Warner.

      • bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        TWC can’t go bankrupt. They just got a big fat $45 BILLION purchase price. TWC is being bought by Comcast.

        I agree the carriers should tell them to shove it, but it won’t hurt TWC.

    • whereyaat - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:54 PM

      In other words, the Dodgers will have no bankroll issues. Time Warner might, however.

      • bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        I agree, well not about TWC going bankrupt, but yes, the Dodgers will be fine. They have a good ownership group now.

  16. JB (the original) - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    The Twins went through this just over 10 years ago.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Sports_One

    Once VS1 folded, they put most of the games on Fox Sports North, but typically had 20-30 games broadcast over the air. But the last 2-3 years, it has been cable only, unless they happen to catch a national “game of the week”, which with their record, hasn’t been often. Since I cut the cord a couple years ago, I’ve gone from a 40 season ticket holder, to casual game goer, to “whatever”. I still listen on the radio while I’m doing something else (hah, the full circle, I started out as a baseball “radio kid”), but certainly don’t care like I did when I could watch from time to time (outside of a bar).

  17. jm91rs - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Can we all agree that for the sake of competitive baseball it would be best if this bubble waited a few years to burst so that more teams get the opportunities to capitalize and play on a somewhat level field? What’s the big deal if the cable company wants to charge everyone a few more bucks?
    -Signed, Guy that pays $30 a month to the phone company for internet and gets tv off a mohu antenna.

    • bender4700 - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:17 AM

      But the real issue is the root of all these problems. The Teams.

      Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Clayton Kershaw, and LeBron James are why your cable bills go up.

      Cable rates increase most often due to increase in sports programming costs. Cable companies such as Comcast, AT&T (U-Verse), Cox, Charter, and others don’t make much, if not lose, from the sports programming. They often have to raise their rates because the cost for ESPN goes up continuously. This causes your bill to go up. Not the cable companies greed or something to that nature.

      It costs a TON to field the current Lakers roster, Dodgers, Yankees, Heat, and many others. Where do the teams get the money? Ticket sales aren’t footing the bill. TV rights. Who can broadcast their team. They get a lot of money from that, the company that owns those rights pays A LOT to that team. They charge Charter, Comcast, AT&T, Cox, and others A LOT. It’s a vicious cycle.

  18. bender4700 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Living in Orange County, and working in the industry involved, this isn’t a good time for the Dodgers. Transition, particular attention to Network/Re transmitter negotiations, and the fact people aren’t keen on their cable bill rising due to ONE team. (Lakers, COUGH)

    TWC has been sold to Comcast. Comcast may, or may not want to own the LA market. It will be a tough transition. Remember, Comcast owns NBC. If they keep LA, isn’t it unreasonable to expect that Comcast may try and direct Dodger rights to their own network, which would change the whole deal considering NBCSports is already in place. I think this will hinge on what Comcast decides. They could rengoiate the deal with the Dodgers to an already existing NBCSports channel. Then, Comcast would have to wait for their existing deals to expire to try and “up” the fee.

    Orange County is Angels country, even bad Angel teams. LA is fickle. Even a really good Dodger team is a tough sell considering all the circumstances.

    That’s just my view. I’m sure it will get worked out. TWC and Viacom worked it out right before football season. Usually how it goes, two sides wait, fight, then suddenly have an agreement in time for major events.

    • stex52 - Feb 19, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Good luck. It hasn’t worked out in Houston so far.

    • jrbdmb - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      But TWC is asking for almost twice what any other RSN is asking for. For a channel that has only one team. LA really only needs two RSNs, not four or five.

  19. onbucky96 - Feb 19, 2014 at 3:30 AM

    Greed is good.

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