There won’t be a mega-merger between Time Warner and Comcast, causing customers across the country to celebrate the immediate lack of an uber-cable provider in this country. But one group of people that won’t be celebrating are fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose best hope of gaining access to Time Warner’s SportsNet LA this year has gone up in smoke.
A merger between the two monolithic companies would have ultimately been bad for customers, creating a dominant player in the American cable/satellite provider market that would have towered above the competition. But there were thoughts that the merger would have resulted in some sort of deal eventually getting done in Los Angeles with SportsNet LA, likely tied to other Comcast owned networks like NBC and NBCSN. That possibility is now gone, and the same carriage arguments that have been waged for the past year will continue.
Furthermore, the still pending merger between AT&T and DirecTV also puts Time Warner in a hairy situation. Significant negotiations likely won’t continue until that merger is approved or nixed. And even if the merger is approved and a distribution agreement is fast-tracked, you’re looking at the summer at the absolute earliest that a deal would get done, causing fans to miss half of the season at an absolute minimum.
How long will the battle wage on? We’ve had the same conversations since the launch of the network last year, and have gotten nowhere. The debut season in 2014 wasn’t enough to get providers to budge. A 2015 season with high expectations and perhaps the final year of Vin Scully behind the mic hasn’t been enough yet. Will it take a World Championship this October for progress to be made in 2016? Will Vin Scully (hopefully not) retire and spur Dodger fans to lob scorn at LA cable and satellite providers for not carrying SportsNet LA during his final year?
I think the best option for Time Warner would be if they attempted to bundle SportsNet LA with the Lakers/Galaxy/Sparks-centric TWC SportsNet. But whatever ends up happening, it’s not going to be happening any time soon – and that’s just awful news for Dodgers fans in LA that want to watch their team on a regular basis.