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Time Warner Cable ready to play hardball over Dodger channel

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Baseball season is still a couple of months away, but Time Warner Cable is already getting its fastball ready.

The cable operator has launched a website for SportsNet LA, the new sports network that will be the exclusive home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and is scheduled to debut on Feb. 25.

But you won't find pictures of ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw or highlights of last season. All there is right now is a countdown clock to the launch of the channel and a form for people to ask their pay-TV providers to carry the service.

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"Demand Your Dodgers Now," says the headline across the top of page. Visitors can then send a form letter to their local pay-TV provider that says, "I am writing to request that you add SportsNet LA to your channel lineup immediately. Sincerely, A Loyal Dodgers Fan."

The site also has suggested tweets for fans to send to further pressure pay-TV providers.

Time Warner Cable has yet to start serious talks with area distributors including DirecTV and Cox about carrying the service. Though the Dodgers own the channel, Time Warner Cable is handling distribution, having paid more than $8 billion over 25 years to be the team's partner on the network.

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The cost to carry the channel is expected to be $4 to $5 per subscriber per month in the first season, with the price going up over the course of the contract.

There will likely be resistance from distributors who are already paying a similar amount to carry the cable operator's SportsNet channel, which is home to the Los Angeles Lakers. And besides the three Time Warner Cable sports networks (the third is a Spanish-language service), there are Fox's two channels, Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, and two Pac-12 channels serving the region.

Interestingly, although the official name of the new channel is SportsNet LA, it is called the Dodgers Network on the web page.

ALSO:

Dodger brass not worried about distribution for cable channel

Dodgers to keep more than $6 billion from television rights deal

Time Warner Cable's Dodger deal guarantees sub fees to the team

Twitter: @JBFlint

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TelevisionTelevision IndustryEntertainmentTime Warner Cable Inc.Satellite and Cable ServiceFox Broadcasting CompanyFox Sports (tv network)
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