Time Warner Cable says it is willing to let an arbitrator determine a fair price for SportsNet LA in the hopes of resolving its dispute with DirecTV and other pay-TV providers over distribution of the Dodger-owned channel.
"We prefer to reach agreements through private business negotiations, but given the current circumstance, we are willing to agree to binding arbitration," a Time Warner Cable spokesman said.
SportsNet LA, launched earlier this year by the team, is the exclusive local TV home for Dodgers games. Time Warner Cable secured distribution rights for the channel in a 25-year deal worth $8.35 billion, according to a valuation by the Dodgers and Major League Baseball.
Other distributors are balking at the price Time Warner Cable wants to carry the channel. According to people close to the situation, Time Warner Cable is seeking more than $4 a month per subscriber in the first year with the price rising steadily through the life of the deal.
Time Warner Cable said it would agree to arbitration after six congressmen led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) sent a letter suggesting the move to DirecTV Chief Executive Michael White and Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Rob Marcus.
"We urge that Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and all other TV providers enter into binding arbitration, so that a neutral third party can determine the right price and terms for the Dodgers network," the letter said, adding that in the meantime SportsNet LA should be made available to all pay-TV subscribers starting Tuesday night. "The arbitration would determine the amount payable for games aired both before and after the arbitration is complete."
The other representatives who signed the letter with Sherman are Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) and Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).
DirecTV does not appear interested in entering into arbitration to resolve the dispute.
"Rather than force everyone to bail Time Warner Cable out, the simplest solution is to enable only those who want to pay to see the remaining Dodger games to do so at the price Time Warner Cable wants to set," a DirecTV spokesman said, adding that non-fans should not have to pay for Time Warner Cable's "excess."
Besides DirecTV, the pay-TV distributors not carrying SportsNet LA include Cox Communications, Verizon FiOS and Dish Network.
Sherman's letter comes one day after Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles) wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking it to mediate an agreement between Time Warner Cable and other providers.
Dodgers President Stan Kasten said Monday that "if you want to carry Dodgers baseball, this is obviously the way to do it."
Kasten declined to comment when asked if the Dodgers would be willing to renegotiate their deal with Time Warner Cable if it meant getting the games back on television.
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