Ever since its launch in 2013, the Dodgers-Time Warner partnership of Sportsnet LA has had plenty of struggles. Only Time Warner itself and affiliates initially picked up the channel, leaving 70 per cent of LA households without it in March 2014, and just about everyone outside of Time Warner, Bright House and newly-merged Charter continues to hold out, leading to industry sources estimating earlier this year that TWC was losing $100 million annually on it. Now, Time Warner Cable Sports president David Rone (who oversaw Sportsnet LA as well as the Lakers-centric TWC SportsNet and Spanish-language TWC SportsNet Deportes) is leaving the company at the end of this week, as reported by John Ourand at Sports Business Daily, and his position won’t be filled:

Time Warner Cable Sports President David Rone, who oversaw the Dodgers and Lakers RSNs, is leaving the company. TWC will not replace Rone when he leaves his post, which he has held for four-and-a-half years, at the end of the month. His direct reports, including GM Mark Shuken, Affiliate Relations VP Dan Finnerty and Marketing VP Scott Pruitt, now will report to TWC Exec VP, Chief Content Officer & COO Melinda Witmer. Rone will remain on as a consultant until the end of the year.

This comes after big September layoffs across the three channels, which included all three cutting back on on-air programming and the entire on-air staff of Deportes being let go. Tom Hoffarth of The Los Angeles Daily News reports that more changes are likely coming, too, including that the company “is rumored to be on the verge of shutting down the Spanish-language channel after the 2015-16 Lakers season.”

As Hoffarth notes, Rone has an impressive business background from before he joined Time Warner in 2011, including co-leadership of CAA’s sports division, an executive VP role at Fox Sports, a stint as the general manager of Fox College Sports and time working in corporate business development for Disney. He also managed to fight a generally-successful carriage battle for them with TWC Sports Net, which also had initial struggles but was able to overcome them; its broader rights, including MLS’ LA Galaxy and the WNBA’s LA Sparks, may have played a role there. The Dodgers-centric Sportsnet LA was a harder sell, especially considering the price Time Warner wanted for it (which was part of recouping the $8.35 billion they spent to control those rights for 25 years). That’s not necessarily Rone’s fault, but it’s interesting to see the point man on this file exit without a replacement.

It’s going to be worth watching to see what comes next for Time Warner’s cable channels, especially Sportsnet LA. That channel has found some recent success thanks to Time Warner’s merger with Charter leading to it gaining coverage there and doubling its ratings, but it still hasn’t made any headway with many providers and still doesn’t have a great coverage map. DirecTV doesn’t appear to be facing substantial subscriber losses from not offering Sportsnet LA, and it seems likely others feel the same way, so things may not turn around for it any time soon. The job cuts, massive rights fees, and low subscriber numbers at Sportsnet LA sound a lot like what’s going on with ESPN, but at least ESPN has a wide variety of revenue streams and great distribution. Sportsnet LA seems to be in a much tougher position.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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