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All Dodgers, all the time? MLB approves new TV deal

With the blessing of Major League Baseball, the Dodgers are about to launch a publicity push for their new SportsNet LA channel.

The new television home is set to debut Feb. 25, the day before the Dodgers open their Cactus League schedule. SportsNet LA plans to air all of the team’s spring training games, Dodgers President Stan Kasten said.

The channel also will air every regular-season game (except those selected for national Fox or ESPN broadcasts) and programs featuring player profiles and behind-the-scenes activities. Although SportsNet LA does not carry the Dodgers name, Kasten said there are no plans for other sports -- or any other programming -- on the channel.

“For the first time ever, there is going to be a Dodger-only channel with Dodger-only content 24-7,” he said.

Whether fans will be able to see that channel on Feb. 25 -- or when the Dodgers open the season in Australia on March 22 -- could be an ongoing story over the next two months. The Dodgers’ partner, Time Warner Cable, is responsible for securing deals to make the channel available on cable and satellite systems besides the ones operated by TWC.

As with the launch of almost all new sports channels, cable and satellite operators are expected to object to the cost of SportsNet LA -- expected to be about $5 per month, per subscriber. Negotiations are expected to start in earnest shortly, with deals most likely just before or just after opening day.

“We want every home to have access to this Dodger channel all the time,” Kasten said.

MLB has approved the Dodgers’ deal with TWC, two people familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Although there has been no announcement, the Dodgers have hired on-air talent for the new channel -- including former players Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra -- and have reached agreement with MLB about how much television revenue the team would share with the league.

Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ controlling owner, said documentation had delayed formal league approval of a deal to which both parties agreed long ago.

“Our understanding with MLB has not changed in months and months,” Walter said. “I never felt it was in any way hostile.”

In June, The Times reported that the parties had agreed to value the TWC deal at $8.5 billion, with the Dodgers keeping more than $6 billion and sharing more than $2 billion with the league. The timing of Clayton Kershaw’s new $215-million contract -- a record for a pitcher, expected to be announced Friday -- had nothing to do with the timing of MLB approval.

The new SportsNet LA channel will use the Dodgers’ interlocking “LA” logo, team co-owner Todd Boehly said. He said the Dodgers agreed to leave the team name out of a channel name that is similar to TWC’s other local sports network, Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.

“The decision was a Time Warner decision,” Boehly said. “That was something they thought was really valuable to their brand. We have the flexibility to sit down and evolve the name over time.”

Kasten said the Dodgers and TWC plan to air 75 games in Spanish this season -- on a separate channel -- with the goal of airing all games in Spanish in future seasons.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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