Dodgers and Time Warner Cable hope to avoid replay of Houston mess

Dodgers and Time Warner Cable hope to avoid replay of Houston mess
John Hartung, left, and Orel Hershiser have helped launch SportsNet LA and in-depth coverage of the Dodgers. (Getty Images)

Los Angeles, you may have a Houston problem.

The Dodgers are expected to have a much better season than the lackluster Houston Astros, but fans of both teams may soon have a lot in common when it comes to watching the games on television.

In Houston, a regional sports network owned by cable giant Comcast Corp., baseball's Astros and basketball's Rockets has struggled since launching in late 2012. Comcast was the only big distributor carrying it as other area pay-TV operators, including DirecTV and AT&T, resisted because they thought the price tag was too high.

Now Comcast SportsNet Houston is in bankruptcy, the owners are bickering in court and DirecTV and others are still nowhere near deals to carry it.

Because the deep-pocketed Dodgers own 100% of SportsNet LA, the new TV home for the team, there is little risk of bankruptcy. But a lot of fans may still miss the games.

Time Warner Cable, which agreed to an $8.35 billion, 25-year deal to handle distribution and operations for SportsNet LA, is now trying to sell it. And like Comcast in Houston, it is hitting a brick wall.

DirecTV, in particular, is being very vocal about the cost of carrying SportsNet LA. With 1.2 million subscribers (almost 30% of the the Los Angeles market), landing DirecTV is crucial SportsNet LA.

To be sure, negotiations won't really heat up until the eve of the regular season. When Time Warner Cable was cutting deals for SportsNet, the channel it launched last year that is home to the Lakers, most of the deals weren't done until the regular season started.

SportsNet LA officially launched Tuesday night. The network announced that Larry King will host a monthly talk show called "Larry King at Bat" that will premiere March 18.


Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.