Is it time to get nervous in battle over Dodgers' new TV network?

Is it time to get nervous in battle over Dodgers' new TV network?
John Hartung, the studio anchor for the soon-to-launch SportsNet LA television network, at the Time Warner Cable Sports Networks in El Segundo. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers’ new network debuts next week, and I guess most of us will just have to take their word for it.

Unless you're with Time Warner Cable, which will run the Dodgers' new cable station, SportsNet LA. Currently, it doesn't have a single deal with any other distributor.


The days of watching Dodgers' games on free television are over. Last year's games were still split between KCAL-TV Channel 9 and Prime Ticket. But beginning this year, it's SportsNet LA or nothing.

And currenlty for the majority of Southern Californians, that means nothing. Now it's easy to shrug all this off and say this is just the usual dance between a new network and pay-TV distributors. That the pressure isn't really on to make a deal until the regular season begins March 22 and all will fall into line.

If largely accurate historically, there’ is still no certainty everything will be resolved by Opening Day. Ask the Pac-12 Network or the Astros, whose network with the Rockets filed for bankruptcy protection after 16 months because it could not reach agreement with DirecTV and other major distributors.

There is obviously a difference between wanting to watch the last-place Astros in Houston and the hugely popular Dodgers in Los Angeles, but you know at some point all this raising of the cable fees is going to reach a limit.

It’s hard to know who to root for is this battle, when all you know is you want your MTV.

Stan Kasten, Dodgers president and chief executive, told The Times' Joe Flint that the team wanted its own outlet because "it best serves our fans" and promised that it will be "a Cadillac of regional sports networks."

Maybe, but it also brought the Dodgers a record $8.35-billion, 25-year deal with Time Warner.

"Time Warner Cable has unilaterally decided to pay an unprecedented high price and now wants all of their own customers as well as those of their competitors, none of which who had any say in the matter, to pick up that tab," Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer, told Flint.

That's the way it works. This one probably will have to play out awhile, so that ballyhooed debut next week may likely go largely unseen. It's the tree-falling-in-the-forest routine. If you broadcast a grand unveiling and few see it, did it really happen?

If four weeks from now there are still no agreements, then you'd best hope that new radio team of Rick Monday and Nomar Garciaparra really shines. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see just how far both sides dig in. And possibly very painful.