We’re just a week and a half from MLB Opening Day, and a majority of cable and satellite customers in southern California have no legal way of watching the Dodgers due to the ongoing carriage dispute between Time Warner and providers DirecTV, Verizon, AT&T, and Cox. Going into its third year, SportsNet LA hasn’t been able to break through and gain carriage on all of these providers due to its high cost (reported at $4.90, the second-highest mark among all RSNs, last year).
But could SportsNet LA finally end up breaking through in 2016, the final season of legendary broadcaster Vin Scully’s career? The LA Times is reporting that Time Warner is cutting the cost of SportsNet LA by 30% to roughly $3.50 for the 2016 season in an effort to gain carriage on those major providers for this season.
As part of the new proposal, Time Warner Cable has offered the channel to other providers at a cost of about $3.50 per month per subscriber home, according to two people familiar with the proposal who were not authorized to discuss deal terms.
The lower rate would bring the cost of SportsNet LA more in line with the industry average for regional sports networks. Until now, the Dodgers channel was the second-most-expensive regional sports channel, behind the YES Network, which carries New York Yankees games, according to SNL Kagan.
Of course, there’s a catch – the contract would just be a one-year deal covering the 2016 season, and if the providers do accept, we’d likely be going through this same song and dance next season.
Time Warner is urging customers to switch providers if they want to watch the Dodgers in 2016, much like YES Network urged Comcast customers in the New York/New Jersey area to switch providers as their carriage battle continues.
“We owe it to Dodger fans to try to get a deal done, especially because of the historic nature of this year with it being [baseball announcer] Vin Scully’s final season,” Time Warner Cable spokesman Andrew Fegyveresi said late Tuesday.
“We’ve had discussions with several providers but we don’t expect any other distributors to carry SportsNet LA by opening day,” Fegyveresi said in a statement. He encouraged fans to switch to Charter or Time Warner Cable.
Is this finally going to be the year? Well, if none of the holdout providers over the past two years experienced a substantial loss of subscribers as the Dodgers coasted to NL West championships, there’s no incentive for them to really give in at this point. But if customers start jumping ship during Scully’s last year, perhaps a deal could get done during the final months of the 2016 season.