70% Of Fans Still Can't Watch LA Dodgers Games On TV Thanks To Time Warner Cable

from the good-job,-team dept

Last year Time Warner Cable and the Los Angeles Dodgers struck a twenty-five year, $8.35 billion deal giving Time Warner Cable the exclusive broadcast rights to all Dodgers games in Los Angeles via its creatively-named regional sports network, Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA. Time Warner Cable then immediately turned around and demanded massive price hikes (rumored to be around $5 per subscriber) for any other pay TV provider that wanted to offer the channel. All of the regional cable operators (including AT&T, Cox, Dish and DirecTV) balked at the hike, resulting about 70% of fans in Dodgers territory being unable to watch the final six games of last season.

All sides had ample opportunity during the offseason to negotiate a fair price, but by all accounts Time Warner Cable simply refused to move on the price tag (though the fact it’s in a holding pattern over a Comcast acquisition also likely played a role). As such, the new baseball season kicked off this week and Dodgers fans remain unable to watch their favorite team’s games. Making matters worse, Time Warner Cable has refused to seriously answer questions about the logjam, offering some variation of the same statement over and over again:

“We want all Dodger fans to have access to SportsNet LA. Despite our repeated attempts, other providers are unwilling to engage in any discussions. If Dodger fans want to enjoy SportsNet LA this season, we encourage them to switch to a provider that carries the network.”

The problem with that logic? Time Warner Cable is the only cable operator offering access to its own sports network, and 70% of Los Angeles lives in an area where they can’t get Time Warner Cable. As such, Time Warner Cable’s recommendation is not only useless, it’s insulting. When that’s pointed out, the company just refuses to comment. When asked why it refuses to compromise on the price, the company provides similarly epic non answers:

“SportsNet LA is available on fair terms consistent with its value. We know that the rates for the network owned by this iconic franchise are in line with what other RSN?s around the country charge, including DirecTV?s own regional sports networks.”

While it’s understandable that Time Warner Cable wants to recoup its investment, the total inflexibility here is pretty well in character for a company that actually has worse customer satisfaction ratings than even the much-hated Comcast. The growing cost of sports programming and the steady increase in annoying retransmission fee dispute blackouts usually help drive cord cutting, but in this case there’s absolutely nowhere else to go to watch the content in question. Even over the air broadcasts aren’t an option thanks to the nature of the Time Warner Cable, Dodgers arrangement.

So far, regulators have chosen to treat these kinds of programming rate standoffs as just “boys being boys,” but it’s unclear how much longer they’re going to be willing to stand on the sidelines given how much politicians love to earn cheap, sports-related political brownie points. Last year FCC boss Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Time Warner Cable claiming that “inaction is no longer acceptable” and the FCC was “monitor(ing) this situation closely in order to determine whether intervention is appropriate and necessary.” But the FCC has said little since. Given that three of the companies involved in the standoff (AT&T, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable) are awaiting merger approval, conditions might be used to force the issue over the next few weeks.

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Companies: comcast, los angeles dodgers, sportsnet la, time warner cable

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Comments on “70% Of Fans Still Can't Watch LA Dodgers Games On TV Thanks To Time Warner Cable”

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27 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

They'll simply, eventually, find something else to do

I’d say let the outrage go. Self-destructive move by the team aggravated by overly-greedy move by Time-Warner will simply mean that fans, over time, will find other things to peak their interest. I recall a in-some-ways-similar move by Pocono Raceway some years back to pay-per-view broadcast of the races there. Ho-hum, fans didn’t flock to deposit their dollars in the deal, found something else to do those Sunday afternoons and Pocono nearly fell off the NASCAR map. They eventually came to their (admittedly meager) senses, but I would say TWC and the Dodgers haven’t learned anything from that bit of history.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: They'll simply, eventually, find something else to do

Exactly. I am seeing more and more Angels jerseys around all the time. A lot of die-hard Dodgers fan have switched teams rather than TV providers.

And as a side note, I called Time Warner to complain about the 300 Mbps I was paying for while getting 100 Mbps (it had just gone up). They offered to flash my router, but I just asked them to downgrade me to 50 Mbps and save $30 per month.

They just did it and 5 minutes later it was done. No hour-long phone call. No BS sales techniques. And I’m not expecting to be called A**hole on my next bill.

Just quick, efficient service.

Call me Al says:

Re: Re:

I’d say it has a fundamental misunderstanding of “value”. We see it all the time that people overvalue their own product when really the only value is what someone else is willing to pay for it. If they aren’t willing to pay what you’re asking then you are asking for the wrong amount or you suck as a salesman.

Vidiot (profile) says:

No team responsibility?

Shouldn’t we lay some blame at the feet of the team? It’s one thing to maximize return; but to cut a deal where predatory pricing will prevent local viewership seems like a bad idea. The team can claim a commitment to the community by sending handicapped 8-year-olds to Disneyland, or bringing the mascot to a benefit event; but how about some arrangement that helps fans watch their home team play baseball?

PaulT (profile) says:

“While it’s understandable that Time Warner Cable wants to recoup its investment…”

…only the geniuses in charge of the entertainment industry routinely try and do this by actively blocking as many potential customers as they can in the hopes of retaining the ability to fleece their preferred group. Same old story, I can’t wait for the chorus of “those evil prated streams or stealing our money!” when fans find a ay to view the games anyway.

twinsdad9901 (profile) says:

Dodgers & TWC

I live in the LA area. Karl got it backwards on the last 6 games last season: TWC “graciously” allowed us to watch those last 6 games after not letting us see the other 156 games of the season. I had heard that part of the Comcast merger, Comcast would trade some areas around, but had not really looked at the details. I have Charter and a tech was out yesterday talking about the deal. Comcast will take over Charter in the West and move back to the Midwest. That means that my ISP will be Comcast. I can’t wait. /s/
That will also solve the problem of not seeing the Dodger games. Not that I care any more. I haven’t seen any for more than a year, so the Dodgers don’t exist for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

the linchpin

Sports are the last hope for traditional cable, and they are choking the life out of it. The talk in the NBA is all about how the salary cap it going to increase in ’17 when the new TV contract kicks in. All that money has to come from somewhere, and they seem to think there is no amount that fans won’t pay. If those sports leagues have guaranteed contracts, and the cable companies can’t get buyers at their ridiculous prices, that is bound to lead to some financial meltdowns.

RD says:

Re: Re: Piracy?

“Because you leave out the vital point: content creators getting money for the wanted product.”

Um…are you an idiot? No, seriously, are you an idiot? Please, tell us all Great and All-Knowing AC, HOW in the name of Holy Copyright are we supposed to buy a product THAT IS NOT OFFERED???

WHY would pirates pay for a product THEY CAN’T BUY???

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Piracy? -- Oh, I didn't know you're entitled!

>> “HOW in the name of Holy Copyright are we supposed to buy a product THAT IS NOT OFFERED???”

Whether it’s on offer or not is ENTIRELY up to the OWNER. You have no rights or say in the matter. That’s called the free market: sellers can choose to withhold product from the market. When it’s mere entertainment, there are no over-riding concerns. You’ll just have to suffer.

And, as usual, a pirate is pretending that they would pay, if only given the chance.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Piracy? -- Oh, I didn't know you're entitled!

Reported for the utter idiocy and grand entitlement of your specious diatribe.

It may be “free market” but that then does NOT give them those exclusive granted rights under the copyright clause.

If your way is SO righteous, how about making something and then NEVER offering it for sale? THAT will teach the leeches! Think of the FORTUNE you will make by never making any of your works available at any price!

What idiot makes a piece of entertainment and then WITHHOLDS it from the audience that it was made for? And then there is no money made from it?? How the HELL can you blame pirates for this??

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Piracy? -- Oh, I didn't know you're entitled!

That’s called the free market: sellers can choose to withhold product from the market.

That’s fair, but, if they refuse to sell it at all, they don’t get to turn around and whine about how many sales they’re losing to piracy, and how it’s utterly decimating their business.

If they were never going to make a sale, due to their own idiocy, then it’s impossible for them to lose a sale, in any fashion.

Native Angeleno says:

Time Warner kaka

Recently switched to TW for wifi. They gave me a modem they hadn’t registered or programmed and a CD telling me how to fix any problems that was blank. They had to pay a tech to come fix everything free for me, expensive for them. He was in my house for about an hour trying to get TW people on their dedicated secret phone number and had to walk the techs on the other end how to fix all of it. TW is a prima facie example of why this society is screeching to a halt in so many ways. When a society allows big corporations to get so big their beaurocracy makes the government’s look lovable in comparison, the proof anything that gets too big becomes inert is obvious, or should be. Yet we still allow “our” representatives, who are really owned by giant corporations, to keep this system going right to its grave.

EVERYBODY do what i do, figure out how to change your computer’s location to Guam and get every game on MLBTV.

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