I did a comprehensive story for USA Today on the loom battle for distribution of SportsNet LA, the new 24/7 Dodgers channel in Los Angeles. The cable and satellite companies are balking at paying the high fee, which will be passed along to consumers.
The impasse has national implications. More so than ever before, the big carriers are pushing back more than ever before when it comes to adding additional sports networks.
From the story.
The website has been active for awhile, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable are counting on a surge in traffic this week.
SportsNet LA, a glitzy 24/7 Dodgers channel, made its debut Tuesday. However, a large segment of fans in the team’s viewing area weren’t able to view the rollout due to distribution issues with various cable and satellite companies.
Enter IneedmyDodgers.com. The site’s message is intent on rallying the sports TV brigade:
“Your voice is important, so make sure you let your provider know you don’t want to miss any Dodgers games and programming on SportsNet LA.”
“We have a passionate fan base,” says Dodgers team president Stan Kasten. “I believe this network is what our fans want.”
But will they be able to get it – and at what price?
Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers are banking on it. The telecommunications behemoth is paying the club $8.35 billion over 25 years to run and distribute the network, which will televise at least 140 games this season.
And so the battle lines are being drawn in yet another showdown between a sports network and the major distributors. DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse are among the carriers balking at charging their subscribers $4.50-$5 month per month to carry SportsNet LA.
ESPN, by comparison, gets about $5.40 per home, TNT $1.20.
YES, the network of the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, charges the highest fee for a regional sports network, at $3.20 per subscriber.
David Rone, TWC Sports president, won’t get into specifics about his network’s fee. As for negotiations over carriage deals for SportsNet LA, he said, “This is par for the course.”
Nothing, though, seems routine in the ever-changing sports TV landscape. Many distributors are saying enough is enough and declining to do deals with sports networks. DirecTV has yet to sign on to carry the Pac-12 Network. Comcast is the only major carrier to air Astros and Rockets games on the troubled Comcast SportsNet Houston.
Coming up, the new SEC Network is expected to face significant distribution challenges when it debuts later this year, and the Big Ten Network will encounter resistance with its attempt to crack the regional markets of Maryland and Rutgers, which will begin conference play this fall.
Whether you love sports or couldn’t care less, ESPN and other national and local sports networks account for as much as $20 on consumers’ cable and satellite bills.
“Every time you turn around, there seems to be another sports network,” says David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. “Consumers say, ‘We just spent $5 for this network last year, and now you want another $5 for another network?’ People are starting to feel some sticker shock.”
And here’s the link to the rest of the story.