Time Warner Cable really wants to take Dodgers TV rights away from Fox Sports’ Prime Ticket channel, going so far as promising the team it would cover fees from other distributors who don’t sign on to carry the channel, said The LA Times.
For example, the story said, if DirecTV does not sign on to carry the new Dodgers channel, Time Warner Cable will pay the subscription fees until a deal could be reached with the satellite broadcaster.
The price for the Dodgers channel is expected to be in the neighborhood of $5 a subscriber per month. That’s a pretty steep ask for a team whose games last season were watched on average by 106,000 households. The Lakers typically more than double that figure and the channel its games are carried on, Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet, costs between $3.50 and $3.95 a subscriber per month.
Under the terms of the deal being finalized, the Dodgers will own the channel outright. Time Warner Cable will shell out between $7 billion and $8 billion for a 20-to-25-year partnership in which it will manage much of the operations and handle distribution. The channel would likely launch either late this year or early next year after the Dodgers’ deal with Prime Ticket ends.
With the Dodgers having their own channel, it will bring the number of regional sports networks in Los Angeles to six. Besides the Dodgers channel, there is Fox Sports West (Angels and Kings), Prime Ticket (Clippers), SportsNet and the Spanish-language sister service Deportes, and the Pac-12 channel.
“That’s too many channels,” Marc Ganis, a sports industry consultant in Chicago told the LA Times. “I can’t imagine that is sustainable on a long-term basis.”
The agreement is expected to be announced imminently.
RBR-TVBR observation: Interesting that TWC, which haggles over ever last penny with local television stations, is ready to inflict huge fees on its non-sports-fan subscribers in California. This is so far removed from the company’s claim of frugality that it makes your head spin.
It does go to show that sports rights are hotter than ever—especially when the playing field of sports networks—national, regional and local—is getting more crowded than ever. Promising the kitchen sink is what it’s going to take for many teams to sign on. No longer are old allegiances enough to keep many teams in the stable.
But is it fair to lavish this one program sector with a huge percentage of program costs and inflict them on every subscriber whether they watch sports or not?
We would remind TWC that the Dodgers are not going to break into whatever they’re doing to inform local viewers about local conditions the next time LA suffers an earthquake, mudslides or wildfires.