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Dodgers' TV channel ratings off to bumpy start

Dodgers' 2015 ratings on SportsNet LA get off to a rocky start; Angels' early season ratings show stamina

The Los Angeles Dodgers kicked off the 2015 season with two stadium sellouts and an uneven performance in the TV ratings.

Monday afternoon's opening day telecast on the team-owned cable channel, SportsNet LA, generated a .79 household rating and an estimated 58,146 viewers. That's slightly more than turned out at Dodger Stadium for the sold-out game that culminated with a win over the San Diego Padres

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which were on the road Monday against the Seattle Mariners, generated a 1.35 household TV rating in Southern California and 88,415 viewers. The Fox Sports West cable channel carries the Angels' games.

The Dodgers and Angels both grew their TV audiences on rain-soaked Tuesday night -- the teams' first prime-time telecasts of the season. The Dodgers captured a 1.04 household rating and 81,670 viewers. The Angels notched a 1.65 household rating and 132,500 viewers.

Fox Sports West is carried by all of the major pay-TV distributors -- making it available in nearly 4.5 million homes in the region.

But because of a bitter fee dispute, Time Warner Cable, which distributes SportsNet LA, is the only major pay-TV provider that offers that channel in Southern California. Other providers have balked at the price that Time Warner Cable has been demanding to carry the channel, leaving more than 70% of the region without regular TV access to Dodger games. 

The Dodgers' TV audience took a tumble on Wednesday. The game mustered a .58 household rating and just 35,000 viewers -- far fewer than showed up at Dodger Stadium for the sold-out game.

Ratings for the game, which featured first baseman Adrian Gonzalez smacking three home runs to lift the Dodgers over the Padres, were 57% lower than for the Tuesday night game.

The Angels showed more stamina in the ratings. The Angels-Mariners contest on Wednesday generated a 1.67 household rating in Los Angeles region and nearly 130,000 viewers -- more than three times the TV audience for the Dodgers.

Despite the small TV audiences, most of the Dodgers' advertising sponsors have hung with the team this year.

"We definitely do see value in still being associated with the Dodgers," said Tiffany Kirk, a managing director at Horizon Media in Los Angeles, which handles ad placements for Southern California Honda Auto Dealers and Jack in the Box. 

"We are not walking away from the partnership," Kirk said. "There is a relationship between advertisers and the home team that is hard to duplicate."

A year ago, the Dodgers' owners -- Guggenheim Baseball Management -- and Time Warner Cable were hopeful that TWC would be able to clinch deals with other pay-TV operators.

But negotiations broke down, and both sides have since refused to budge -- frustrating some advertisers and thousands of Dodgers fans who are unable to watch the games.

"The ratings have been really low," said Mary Jo Sobotka, chief integrated media officer for the Phelps advertising agency in Santa Monica. "A lot of advertisers are thinking about radio as an option."

Time Warner Cable, for its part, said it was pleased with its advertising sales.

"Not only have current advertisers returned, and in some cases they have invested further in the network," a Time Warner Cable spokesman said. "Also, we have already added more than 20 new clients for this season."

Inside the stadium, advertisements feature such marquee sponsors as Farmer John hot dogs, Universal Studios, State Farm insurance and the Guggenheim-owned financial firm, Security Benefit.

"In-stadium advertising has always been viable -- but it is expensive," Sobotka said. "Cable television buys have historically worked well because they are more affordable and allow advertisers access to reach that audience."

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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