Time Warner Cable throws fast pitch by its customers


TV Freedom“The pressure of paying for this deal with the Dodgers has left TWC unfazed by the disproportionate increase in the monthly bills of its pay-TV customers…”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are a Major League baseball franchise built on tradition and a history of great success. “Dodger Blue” has given its fans some great World Series memories, such as the 1963 Sandy Koufax-led Dodgers’ sweep of the Yankees and the improbable Kirk Gibson walk-off homerun in 1988 to beat the Oakland A’s.

This year’s team is talented and brings playoff hopes to the hearts of Dodger fans everywhere, most who won’t want to miss any games this season.

If you aren’t a Dodgers fan, however, you probably won’t be volunteering to buy any tickets to its games. But, if you are a Time Warner Cable (TWC) subscriber living in Los Angeles, you’ll be paying for the cable company’s new SportsNet LA network which will air all regular-season Dodgers games even if you don’t want or may never watch that channel.

TWC signed an exclusive $8.35 billion deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to air all of the team’s regular season games for the next 25 years on SportsNet LA.  Given the hefty price tag, TWC apparently needs to force every subscriber to pay an additional $60 per year by placing this new channel on its basic cable programming tier.

With the network set to debut on February 25th, TWC is in ongoing negotiations with other competitors such as DirectTV, The Dish Network and Cox Communications to permit them to offer the channel to their customers in the Los Angeles television market for an additional $4 to $5 per month, per subscriber.

The Dodgers obviously have a right to be compensated for the rights to televise their games and TWC also for showing them.

What’s odd here, is the contradiction in TWC’s position. At a time when it’s increasing rates for its own programming, and forcing all of its customers to pay for a channel some may not want, TWC is in Washington seeking government assistance to change the rules of the game on retransmission consent negotiations related to TV broadcast programming.

The pressure of paying for this deal with the Dodgers has left TWC unfazed by the disproportionate increase in the monthly bills of its pay-TV customers which led to its decision to place its own channel- SportsNet LA- on the basic tier and require all of its cable customers to pay for the cost of this cable network programming for the next 25 years even if some customers will never watch the channel even once.

Ignoring its self-serving actions that are hiking fees on its own cable customers and potentially those of competitors, TWC and other pay TV providers are now engaged in Washington D.C. to blame network broadcasters and the nation’s most popular and highly rated TV and local programming as the reason they need to boost their record profits on the backs of consumers.

Given this development, it seems that TWC is really not concerned with how much their customers pay each month for TV service when it involves rate increases associated with its own content, but has a problem with paying TV broadcasters fair market rates for the high quality and most popular national and local programs watched by their customers. The overwhelming majority of America’s TV viewers have made it clear that they value their local news, emergency alerts and warnings, and the Broadcast-network generated TV sports and entertainment programming regardless of whether they watch television through a pay-TV service or via free, over-the-air broadcast.

This latest TWC deal with SportsNet LA brings to light the glaring and hypocritical inconsistencies of how TWC works in the marketplace and the halls of Capitol Hill.

TVfreedom.org would argue that it’s time for Pay-TV providers to stop the Washington gamesmanship, and, instead, they should focus on being transparent about all programming costs that America’s TV viewers pay and stop using consumers as bargaining chips at every turn to increase their record profits.

–Robert C Kenny is the Director of Public Affairs for TVfreedom.org, a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network TV affiliate associations, and other independent organizations; he formerly served as Press Secretary at the FCC.