No Time Warner Cable means no Dodgers for fans and bar owners

No Time Warner Cable means no Dodgers for fans and bar owners
Most fans will likely have to find a bar to watch the Dodgers today. Above, relief pitcher Brandon League. (Associated Press)

Dodgers fans who want to watch this afternoon's game against the Padres but don't have the team's new channel SportsNet LA might have to go park themselves at bar to catch the action.

But don't just assume that every bar and restaurant will have the Dodgers; many have only DirecTV, and the satellite service is yet to cut a deal with Time Warner Cable for SportsNet LA. Although the Dodgers own SportsNet LA, Time Warner Cable is the channel's distribution partner.

"It's definitely frustrating for us," said AJ Sacher, regional manager for Barney's Beanery, which has six locations in the Los Angeles area but only one (West Hollywood) that has Time Warner Cable and SportsNet LA. The other locations have DirecTV and Dish Network.

None of the area's major pay-TV distributors — DirecTV, Dish, FiOS, U-Verse, Charter and Cox — have agreements to carry SportsNet LA. Time Warner Cable has about 1.5 million subscribers in the area and covers 30% of the region, which leaves 70% in the lurch.

Sacher said not having the channel at all his locations will hurt business. Last year's strong season kept people guzzling beers and chowing down burgers all summer.

"The Dodgers had so much steam behind them last year … so I feel like it's been a big letdown to not be able to jump right back into that."

For bars that do carry SportsNet LA, employees are salivating at the likely boom in business. (Time Warner Cable has provided a list of bars and restaurants carrying SportsNet LA.)

Busby's Event Coordinator Paul Boettcher said both of the bar's locations — one in Santa Monica and another in mid-Wilshire area — have Time Warner Cable.

"[The customers] expect us to have everything," Boettcher said in an email to The Times. "We are the biggest sports bars in L.A. and Santa Monica so we have to carry every game for every sport, even rugby … hence we have every conceivable network subscription."

Time Warner Cable continues to negotiate with area providers, and executives there have said they expected that few would be carrying SportsNet LA at the start of the season.

DirecTV and others have indicated they are willing to offer SportsNet LA a la carte to subscribers. Time Warner Cable, however, wants the channel available to every home in the market, and a la carte is a nonstarter for them.

For Los Angeles sports fans, this is deja vu all over again. When Time Warner Cable landed the rights to the Lakers and launched SportsNet, most distributors also held out until after the season started. Eventually, agreements were reached.

However, lately some distributors are taking a harder line against expensive sports channels. In Houston, the regional sports network co-owned by Comcast, the Astros and Rockets filed for bankruptcy because other distributors, including DirecTV, refused to carry it.

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