Q. Do you think there’s any chance that DIRECTV will carry the Dodgers TV channel? It really is hard to believe that no one besides Spectrum has it. Don’t you think DIRECTV will carry it this season? Aren’t they losing subscribers and all? — Fred, Manhattan Beach, California.
SportsNet LA, the TV home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is not available on any cable or satellite TV service in the LA market except for Charter Spectrum, which has the management rights to the channel.
Since the channel’s launch in 2014, DIRECTV has refused to carry SportsNet LA, saying it’s asking for excessive carriage fees. Charter disagrees, but DIRECTV’s position is supported by the fact that no other major pay TV service in the LA market has signed up, either.
The live streaming services, such as AT&T TV Now, Sling TV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV, also don’t carry SportsNet LA. While they have not commented publicly on the channel, it’s likely the price tag for carriage is too steep for them, too.
And, Fred, I don’t see this changing in 2020, or maybe ever.
While it may seem incredulous to suffering Dodger fans, the explanation for this debacle is quite simple.
Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Dodgers $8.35 billion over a 25-year period for the management rights to SportsNet LA. (Charter inherited the contract when it purchased Time Warner Cable in 2016.)
That’s an obscene amount of money, but at the time (2014), it didn’t seem like such a bad deal. The pay TV business was still flourishing and a new Dodgers TV channel promised to generate billions in advertising and carriage revenue.
But since then, escalating programming costs have forced pay TV services to significantly raise subscriber fees, which has led to millions of customers dropping their service. The pay TV ops can no longer afford the steep fees that SportsNet LA must charge to offset the management rights money that goes to the Dodgers. (Some pay TV operators saw this coming even if Time Warner Cable execs didn’t; they balked at the channel’s excessive carriage fees at the start, saying they needed to start trimming programming costs.)
So it’s a stalemate, and it doesn’t make sense for Charter to drop its fees in an attempt to bring DIRECTV, or anyone else, on board. Why? Read this.
I think the only way this impasse ever changes is if the Dodgers agree to restructure the original contract. This would allow Charter to lower its fees, and allow more LA fans to see their favorites at home.
But considering the Dodgers are using that Charter money to help build world-class teams every year, it’s not likely this will happen anytime soon.
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— Phillip Swann