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So begins the Dodgers' TV blackout that was never supposed to happen

Television IndustryLos Angeles DodgersSan Diego PadresDirecTV Group Inc.ESPN

So if a game is played in the forest and only about 30% of the people could watch it, did it really happen? Or something like that?

The Dodgers will play the Padres in San Diego this afternoon, and it is the official beginning of the end. The end of being able to watch every Dodgers game on television somewhere.

Somewhere is now only Time Warner Cable, the lone major provider carrying the Dodgers’ new regional sports network, SportsNet LA. To the vast majority of Los Angeles-area residents, the blackout begins.

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Which is, you know, the blackout that was never supposed to come. Because these negotiations always get done at the last minute. Or so we were constantly told. Then it was, not counting the two games in Australia because one was in the middle of the night and the other was, well, in Australia.

The Sunday night opener against the Padres was carried nationally by ESPN, but here we are now, the Dodgers on the road set to play their fourth game of the young season and nary a tube, plasma, LED, LCD or 3D screen across Southern California can provide it.

Hope you really believe in Charley Steiner and Rick Monday, though somehow I don’t think all this harkens back to those romantic days of yesteryear when transistor radios were the main source of live Dodger games

Are you ticked? You should be.

It’s an army and an outrage that figures to only grow with each passing non-televised game, and the Dodgers are keenly aware of that. Maybe most Los Angeles residents can’t watch Tuesday's 3:30 p.m. start but Wednesday is a traditional 7 p.m. start. At what point does this really start to hurt? At what point do the villagers storm the gates of power, remotes in one hand and fat cable bills in the other?

The new network operated by TWC has been up and running for over a month now, or so we’re told. I see Alanna Rizzo running around interviewing every Dodger and coach three times a day, so I’m assuming all that’s going out somewhere.

If you use DirecTV, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Dish or Cox or anything else other than Time Warner Cable as your provider, you wouldn’t know. I understand SportsNet LA has outstanding quality, only because Stan Kasten told me so.

But for almost three-fourths of the Los Angeles area, it’s pure rumor. It’s maddening. It’s borderline unconscionable. No Vin Scully will brighten our screens. And get this, when the team hits the road later this month outside the division, not even Scully will be able to watch the games. He’s a DirecTV guy.

If this were an April Fools’ joke, it wouldn’t be funny.

Like many, I wonder about the market for a 24/7 Dodgers-only channel. But no one questions the market for watching their games. It was bad enough that no games would be offered this season on free TV, but no games at all weren’t exactly what fans bargained for.

The new ownership group has made good on every promise, and how often has that ever happened? But it’s now coming with a cost, in ticket prices and your cable bill. And if fans actually had been given a choice of a record team payroll, complete with an inflated cable bill, or more modest improvements with status quo TV coverage, how many would have signed on?

It may be the first week of the season, but it feels later in all these negotiations. Negotiations that have apparently been exclusively between TWC and the other providers. It’s time for the Dodgers to become more directly involved in these discussions, to get this done.

They must know, we are watching. Just not the games.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Television IndustryLos Angeles DodgersSan Diego PadresDirecTV Group Inc.ESPN
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