New MLB Commissioner Won’t Do Anything To Get Dodgers Back On L.A. TV

Sorry, Dodgers fans. New MLB Commish Rob Manfred doesn't care whether you can watch your team on TV.

Sorry, Dodgers fans. New MLB Commish Rob Manfred doesn’t care whether you can watch your team on TV.

With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training in the coming week, and the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season fewer than eight weeks away, the overwhelming majority of Dodgers fans in Los Angeles are still unable to watch their hometown team on TV. And even though now-former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig had said during his final months that the league would do “everything we can to break the impasse,” those words now ring hollow as Selig’s replacement has confirmed he wants nothing to do with getting baseball back on TV in L.A.

For latecomers who don’t understand why 70% of L.A. residents can’t watch the Dodgers, here’s a quick recap.

Launched in 2014, SportsNet LA is a cable TV station jointly owned by the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable. Because the channel’s owners are reportedly asking far too much money for access to the station, it’s currently not available to the other pay-TV providers in the region or to the satellite companies that actually compete with TWC.

Before SportsNet LA came on the scene, Fox Sports West’s Prime Ticket channel had most been carrying Dodgers games. Unlike the newer station, Prime Ticket was also available to satellite subscribers and other terrestrial pay-TV carriers in the area.

TWC is reportedly demanding that carriers pay $4-5 month per customer to offer SportsNet LA, which is only slightly less than pay-TV providers pay to carry ESPN, the most expensive cable network. Additionally, the TWC demands would require that anyone carrying SportsNet LA offer the station on their most popular tier of service, meaning DirecTV and Dish couldn’t put the channel in some regional sports tier for an additional charge. Thus, the satellite companies would have to either eat the cost of SportsNet LA or raise all customers’ bills to pay for a station that not everyone may want.

The Dodgers are good, but no team is good enough to demand rates and conditions that would have such a chain reaction for everyone’s cable bill.

TWC guaranteed the Dodgers more than $8 billion over 25 years, which is why it’s trying to charge so much. But if it doesn’t find other pay-TV buyers for the channel, it may have difficulty making that guarantee using its own subscriber base.

And while the Dodgers had a good season last year, which would seem to bolster the argument that cable companies should pay a premium price for SportsNet LA, fortunes change very quickly in pro sports and teams that were at the top can quickly sink to the bottom.

There had been some hope that MLB leadership would intervene and take the team and TWC to the side for a reality check.

But recently installed MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently made it clear that he wants nothing to do with this mess.

“Distribution issues are fundamentally issues between the rights holder and the distributors,” Manfred told reporters, according to ESPN. “I have no role or leverage in terms of inducing anybody to do anything in that process… We stay in touch with the Dodgers, the Dodgers are very concerned and obviously want to have distribution, as do we, but we just don’t really have a seat at that table.”

In a new column for the L.A. Times, Bill Plaschke spreads the blame around on all involved parties — from the team that got greedy and made an exclusive deal with a new network only carried by one provider, to the cable company that refuses to acknowledge it’s demanding too much for a regional sports channel with only one good team, to the satellite companies that are taking a hardline stance on the negotiations.

“Everyone is arrogant, everyone is wrong,” he writes, adding that too much emphasis has been put on the notion that Comcast’s pending acquisition of TWC and AT&T’s pending merger with DirecTV will resolve the situation. “[E]veryone is now blaming the whole mess on a couple of slow-moving marriages that were supposed to clean it up, but have only made it worse.”

[via Fierce Cable]

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