Time Warner ad campaign may signal movement in Dodgers' TV impasse

Time Warner ad campaign may signal movement in Dodgers' TV impasse
John Hartung, formerly of ABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles, is the main studio anchor for Time Warner Cable's SportsNet LA. So far, the cable channel that will broadcast Dodgers games this season is available only to about 30% of the local TV market. (Los Angeles Times)

It has been a reasonably civil dispute, taking any fun you might be able to scavenge out of this ongoing battle between Time Warner Cable and the other satellite and cable providers not broadcasting the Dodgers.

There has been a reasonable share of biting comments and finger-pointing from various company honchos and flacks, but four months into the dispute, no one had really taken the battle to the streets and tried to rile up the masses.


Until now, anyway.

Time Warner has taken the public offensive in the disagreement, particularly calling out DirecTV and scolding the company for failing to come to an agreement. If DirecTV falls in line, it’s assumed all the rest will follow suit.

Time Warner took out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times this month to specifically rip into DirecTV. And Time Warner is now regularly running a spot on the Dodgers' radio network in which it says almost the identical things in the newspaper ad.

It lists four "facts," all of which naturally paint DirecTV as the undisputed bad guy in this debate. It warns ominously, "DirecTV is not actively engaged in negotiations, leaving fans in the dark. If the Dodgers matter to you, you've waited long enough."

It's difficult to know who to really line up behind when billionaire companies do battle. Dodgers' fans just want it done and their team on TV. Consumers who are not fans just don't want an agreement that foists a hefty price increase for a team they don't watch.

But at least Time Warner’s advertising efforts demonstrate some building urgency. Plus, the local college football season is promising and DirecTV is looking at its third consecutive season of not having the Pac-12 Network.

Maybe the combination of not having the Dodgers, UCLA and USC will finally be enough to push a significant number of subscribers over to Time Warner, at least those in the areas where they actually have the option.

You’d hope something would finally heat talks up. The Dodgers and Giants, baseball’s greatest rivalry, are back in action this weekend in San Francisco with first place on the line. And with a TV blackout in the Los Angeles area to all who don’t/can’t/won’t subscribe to Time Warner.

Somebody needs to be a little more ticked off. Whether it's the fans, the team, the politicians, the media, Time Warner or other cable and satellite providers. Hopefully, signs of the traditional advertising campaign signal that the big boys are becoming growingly concerned and more amenable to doing something about it.

Or perhaps I'm just watching my blank TV screen through rose-colored glasses.