This morning we wrote about how the Dodgers and Time Warner have reduced the per-subscriber price for which they will offer the Dodgers’ cable network to southern California cable operators. They’re doing so in an effort to make Dodgers games available to fans in the region who haven’t been able to see their games for a few years now due to the carriage dispute. All of the details about that can be read in the linked post.
A few moments ago Major League Baseball released a statement from Rob Manfred imploring the cable companies with whom the Dodgers are negotiating to accept the latest offer. And they did so in a pretty pathetic way in this writer’s opinion:
“The distribution dispute involving DirecTV, AT&T, COX and Verizon has gone on too long. The Dodgers’ massive fan base deserves to be able to watch Dodger games regardless of their choice of provider. The situation is particularly acute given that this is Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully’s final season. Time Warner has made a significant economic move that I hope will be accepted by the providers.”
The Vin Scully card, eh? Pretty low if you ask me.
Where was Major League Baseball’s concern about the masses being able to hear any given broadcaster when, as a matter of clear league policy, it and its clubs made a concerted effort to push games off of free, over-the-air TV and onto cable? Where was baseball’s concern about widespread availability of games when it pushed not just regular season games but postseason games onto cable as well? Where is it now that it continues to enforce blackout restrictions which are aggressively anti-fan yet persist because their existence is something the cable companies desperately, desperately want to keep in place?
Moreover, I’ve been searching my archives for a while now and I can’t seem to find the press release from MLB in which it said “hey, the bids from Fox, ESPN, TBS and the other networks were not quite what we wanted for national broadcast rights, but at some point we figured they were generous enough and we felt like making the best possible business deal we could wasn’t a great thing.” I’m SURE it’s here someplace, but I simply can’t locate it. Oh, and while you’re at it, MLB, maybe get the guys who write your press releases to help DirecTV, AT&T, Cox and Verizon’s P.R. department write theirs. You know, for when they have to explain to their shareholders that they took a deal that didn’t work for them because “hey, we were asked to do it for Vin.”
Finally, speaking of Vin Scully, I’m curious to know if anyone checked with him about being used as a point of emotional manipulation like this. He has never, not once, inserted himself into controversial business matters of the Dodgers or Major League Baseball and has, at almost every turn, gone out of his way to avoid attention that is unrelated to the actual calling of a baseball game in front of him. He’s a tremendous source of goodwill for the Dodgers to be sure, but he’s not some mascot or sympathy card that should be wielded like this.
This part of baseball is a business. Cable is definitely a business. Put your big boy pants on and do business, MLB, rather than playing cynical P.R. games like this.