As Dodgers season starts, battle over pay TV fees shuts out fans

Fri Mar 28, 2014 4:29pm EDT
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By Ronald Grover and Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - As the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team takes the field for its regular season, many local fans who hoped to tune in on television are getting shut out of the action.

Dodger games are carried on the new Dodger-owned SportsNet LA channel. But with Time Warner Cable and two smaller cable systems the channel's only carriers, most of the 5 million pay-TV subscribers in the Los Angeles area are left in the dark.

That's because the other larger pay-television distributors in the area, including satellite TV operators DirecTV and Dish and cable operators Charter and Verizon, have balked at signing on, claiming the fees are too high.

Time Warner Cable, which also operates SportsNet LA for the Dodgers, last year paid $8.3 billion over 25 years for the rights to Dodger games.

Pay TV operators have been vocal opponents of the rising cost of carrying sports, which they say gets passed on to consumers.

They've resisted paying SportsNet LA's monthly fee of more than $4 a subscriber, saying it is the highest for a regional sports channel. Cable industry insiders say the fee escalates to $5 per subscriber in later years.

In comparison, cable systems pay a monthly fee of $3.43 per subscriber for the YES Network, which carries New York Yankee games, according to cable consultant SNL Kagan.

"There's no question we would prefer to continue to carry Dodgers games," DirecTV said In a March 23 web post. "But we believe the price is not fair and reasonable to the millions of families living in metro Los Angeles, let alone Central California, Nevada and Hawaii."   Continued...

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the bottom of the second inning in their Major League Baseball game at the Sydney Cricket Ground March 23, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray