The Dodgers and Time Warner launched SportsNet LA this season. The Dodgers games appear on it in California. The problem: only Time Warner subscribers can currently get SportsNet LA and a minority of people in Los Angeles are Time Warner subscribers, leaving the majority of Dodgers fans with no way to watch Dodgers games.
The reason other carriers — including DirecTV, Cox Communications, Verizon FiOS and Dish Network — aren’t carrying it? Time Warner wants to charge them $4 per subscriber to carry it. That’s pretty darn high for a single channel and it’s hard to pass on those costs to all subscribers when most of them probably aren’t baseball fans to begin with. This is a broader problem with all rights fees disputes in pay TV and it has played out in many cities, usually with sports, but sometimes with other channels too.
But since this is sports — the Dodgers no less — a lot of heavy hitters are wading in. Congressmen, mostly, and the FCC, trying to force Time Warner and the other pay TV providers to the table. At the heavy hitters’ suggestion, Time Warner has agreed to forego continued negotiations and simply submit the matter to a binding arbitration which will determine what the other carriers have to pay for it.
However, it takes two to tango:
DirecTV does not appear interested in entering into arbitration to resolve the dispute.
“Rather than force everyone to bail Time Warner Cable out, the simplest solution is to enable only those who want to pay to see the remaining Dodger games to do so at the price Time Warner Cable wants to set,” a DirecTV spokesman said, adding that non-fans should not have to pay for Time Warner Cable’s “excess.”
Not too encouraging. And, obviously, somewhat disingenuous. I’m a DirecTV subscriber and, for some reason, they don’t let me pick and choose which programming I wish to pay for. I have tiers and packages and all kinds of crap. If they’d let me have MLB Extra Innings, Cartoon Network and a couple of science/documentary channels for the kids and would allow me to turn on and turn off Fox and TBS each postseason, I’d be doing that in a heartbeat. I’m not holding my breath.
Oh well. At least I can get Dodgers games here in Ohio. Too bad people in L.A. cant.