The disputes over Time Warner Cable SportsNet in Los Angeles are getting worse before they get better, and fans are left holding the bag once again in a battle between networks and providers.
At the beginning of the 2014 season, TWC SportsNet is not available in a reported 70% of Los Angeles homes, squeezing the Dodgers fanbase out of watching their team. Even the legendary voice of the Dodgers Vin Scully, a DirecTV subscriber, can’t get the games because of the limited distribution of the channel.
And if the recent breakdown in talks are any indication, he’s not getting Dodgers games in his home any time soon.
A Time Warner exec says DirecTV pulled out of negotiations and will not carry TWC SportsNet this season (via the Los Angeles Times):
“DirecTV has advised us that they will not carry the Dodgers this year, and they have walked away from the negotiating table,”
Of course, this being a carriage negotiation, there are always two sides to every story… with some nastiness and mud-slinging thrown in for good measure. Here’s what DirecTV had to say:
A DirecTV spokesman countered that “nothing could be further from the truth” and added that “fans have already seen through Time Warner Cable’s deception, and this is yet another transparent attempt to manipulate all TV customers throughout the region.”
While Time Warner and DirecTV bicker like they’re on a fake debate show, it’s fans who are once again losing out. Unfortunately in this situation, there appears to be a chasm between both sides. DirecTV wants to carry TWC SportsNet a la carte (which will happen as soon as Pee Wee Reese comes back from the dead to play shortstop) and TWC is reportedly asking for at least $4 per month per subscriber to carry the channel, which is in ESPN territory. Both sides don’t just have to meet in the middle, they have to take a train to get there.
It’s early, but the lack of distribution is clearly hurting the Dodgers in the ratings. Through the first 2 games of the season, the Times says the team only drew 37,000 viewers in the market. In comparison, the Angels drew 100,000 viewers on the widely-distributed Fox Sports West. That’s the price the Dodgers paid when they signed on to the billion dollar deal with an exclusive network like TWC SportsNet.
These kinds of disputes between networks and carriers over sports rights are exploding all over the country. And nearly every time, the only loser in these negotiations are fans stuck in the middle being played by both sides. Time will tell how patient disaffected Dodgers fans will be with the situation and whether the billions of Time Warner’s dollars will be worth the strife for the franchise.